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Three Diocesan Primates of North America Meet in New York

The three Diocesan Primates of the Armenian Church in North America met on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 15-16, 2019, at St. Nersess Seminary in Armonk, NY. Bishop Daniel Findikyan of the Eastern U.S. Diocese hosted Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western U.S. Diocese and Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan of the Diocese of Canada.

It marked the second time that the three churchmen have met formally. A prior gathering took place earlier this year in California.

The church leaders discussed issues of common concern during three working sessions. The occasion also afforded them a chance to interact with the staff and students of St. Nersess Seminary and with Eastern Diocesan clergy from the region.

Topics addressed by the Primates included the ongoing renovation of the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, the creation of a new international Armenian Church youth group, envisioned expansions to St. Nersess Seminary, and the church’s role in preserving the Armenian language.

“It was my privilege this week to host my brothers in New York, to continue the work we began in Los Angeles last February,” said Bishop Daniel. “Although our dioceses are separated geographically, we Primates find that we face common challenges. At the same time, living on this continent affords a valuable prospect for tangible cooperation. Archbishop Hovnan, Bishop Abgar, and I share a great hope that our example of mutual love, respect, and collaboration can be an inspiration beyond these shores.”

Expansions and Initiatives

Archbishop Hovnan, who chairs the fundraising committee for the Etchmiadzin renovation project, outlined the project as a state-of-the-art renovation by top experts in the field, which will preserve the cathedral for another 200-300 years. The work is expected to be completed in one year.

The cost is expected to be on the order of $10 million. He added that while the Mother See has mostly pursued a limited number of large gifts to fund the project, all children of the Armenian Church should be encouraged to give whatever they can, based on their relative abilities. The three Primates agreed to take a united approach to contributing to the cause.

By the appointment of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Archbishop Hovnan also chairs the new “Armenian Church International Youth Organizations” (ՀԵՀԵՄ). The group was created in response to the need for guidance among the church youth groups proliferating across the diaspora.

The Mother See will shortly release general guidelines for these groups, Archbishop Hovnan said. A director of the group has been appointed in the person of Fr. Tovma Khachatryan, to whom the three Primates will extend an invitation to visit North America and spend a week in each diocese.

As part of an update on the operations of St. Nersess Seminary—which serves all three dioceses in North America—seminary dean Fr. Mardiros Chevian spoke about an increasing need for academic programs directed towards men and women who are not pursuing a formal priestly vocation, but who wish to serve the church as youth workers, musicians, deacons, or teachers. Bishop Daniel spoke about faculty development efforts to respond to this need.

“Body”-Building

Bishop Daniel also addressed questions on the future of the Armenian language—especially Western Armenian—and the Armenian Church’s role in preserving. He suggested that the dioceses might join forces with Armenian cultural and educational organizations outside the church, to form an independent body tasked with promoting Armenian language instruction. The three Primates intend to appoint experts from their respective dioceses to jointly study the issue.

In a presentation on the Eastern Diocese’s “Building Up the Body of Christ” initiative, Bishop Daniel described the plan’s objectives: to educate all segments of the church in the Armenian tradition of following Christ; to inspire new “apostles”—deacons, teachers, musicians, and others—to support the clergy; and to restore the Holy Badarak as the heart of the Christian calling in the Armenian Church.

Bishop Abgar and Archbishop Hovnan felt that the basic ideas set forth could be of use in their own dioceses, and could foster closer collaboration among them.

Other topics of note included exchanges of clergy and youth among the three dioceses, and cooperation with the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox churches.

The Primates concluded their meeting by recommitting themselves to supporting one another in their ministries. Their next meeting in the spring of 2020 will be held in Canada, hosted by Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan.

Above: Three Diocesan Primates—Abp. Hovnan Derderian, Bp. Abgar Hovakimyan, and Bp. Daniel Findikyan—met in mid-October to discuss matters pertaining to the Armenian Church in North America. At St. Nersess Seminary in Armonk, NY, they gathered with clergy from the Eastern Diocese.

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