In a poignant ceremony at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on Sunday, November 22, 2020, His Holiness Karekin II presided over a special “Day of Remembrance.” In accordance with the declaration of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Armenian churches around the world observed the day with memorial services to honor the memory of the heroes who gave their lives in the war defending Artsakh and Armenia.
Taking part in the service before the massive outdoor St. Drtad altar at the Holy See was Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, high-ranking clergymen and public figures, as well as throngs of military personnel—commanders and soldiers from every rank—who had fought in the recent war effort.
Catholicos Karekin II’s quietly emotional sermon expressed grief at the costly loss of so many precious lives in the war, while extolling with pride the courage shown by soldiers and civilians alike. He placed the current crisis alongside the historic cataclysms of Armenian history, but also affirmed that the force that overcame those earlier trials—the Armenian people’s faith in the risen Christ—would also prevail in the present circumstances.
Augmenting his earlier urgent calls for national unity in a time of crisis, he said: “Today, in the light of the memory of our martyrs, we now are called—we are obligated—to turn their cherished visions and dreams into reality.”
Click here to watch a recording of His Holiness’ sermon, delivered in Armenia. Read an English rendering of the entire speech below.
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The Sermon of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians
On the Day of Remembrance for the Heroes Who Died in Defense of the Homeland During the Artsakh War
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“I am resurrection and life. He who believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live.” (Jn 11:25).
My Dear, Faithful Children:
Today, we have joined together in prayer to God, to pay our respects, and express our gratitude, to our heroes who died in defense of the free and independent life of Artsakh. United, we bow before their memory.
Those valiant soldiers and commanders gave their lives in this latest Armenian struggle for survival; the courage they showed is the greatest testimony to their patriotic, national spirit. This war was provoked by Azerbaijan against the Artsakh Republic; it was unleashed with the support of Turkey and the involvement of mercenary terrorists. Yet our heroic children bravely fought against the unequal force of the enemy, defending our homeland at the cost of their lives.
Today, we are all in mourning. Our hearts grieve at the loss of our fallen heroes. We share the heavy burden being carried by loving parents, bereaved fathers and mothers, widows and orphans. Yet alongside this unspeakable pain, we are also filled with pride over their indomitable courage, unparalleled heroism, and glorious bravery. Our heroes fought with complete devotion to a vision of justice: a vision of the right of Artsakh Armenians to live in freedom. A vision of peaceful progress for Armenia and Artsakh. A vision of life lived in peace and security.
Today, in the light of the memory of our martyrs, we now are called—we are obligated—to turn their cherished visions and dreams into reality.
Dear ones: Over the centuries our people have passed through valleys of death many times; we have witnessed destruction, massacre, genocide. Yet in all of our tribulations we have been able to overcome death by believing in the risen Jesus Christ and his life-giving word: “He who believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live.” Relying on God, we have turned our pain and sorrow into strength and power; we have turned our loss and mourning into will and determination. Even after the Genocide—when one and a half million children of our people were martyred; when we lost most of our historical homeland; when many Armenians who escaped the Genocide were deported and scattered around the world—even then we were able to rebuild our statehood in this small part of eastern Armenia. We were able to establish colonies, to make them flourish with educational, cultural, charitable, and national institutions and churches.
Today, with the painful losses caused by the war, with the complex internal political conditions now created, our country is facing a severe crisis. In this difficult situation, all individual and group interests and ambitions must bow before the supreme interest of the homeland. It is the duty of each of us, in particular our state and political figures, to take every sacrifice with a high sense of responsibility for overcoming the difficult situation we now inhabit, for the sake of the stability, security, and bright future of our homeland.
In the face of the self-sacrifice and vivid memory of our children who gave their lives for the homeland, we have a duty to preserve our faith, to stay away from words and deeds that provoke hatred and enmity, to keep our homeland from new shocks and dangers. In the spirit of patriotism, unity, solidarity and tolerance, let us work for the protection of the rights of the Armenians of Artsakh, for the creation of a new life in Armenia and Artsakh.
My dear faithful children, at this moment let us offer our heartfelt prayers, our appreciation, our homage to all our brave military commanders and soldiers, who have shown unparalleled heroism in the sacred work of defending the homeland; let us include in those honors the valiant children of national minorities who likewise fought and sacrificed.
Let us pray that peace will descend on the souls of our fallen heroic sons, asking for the almighty Holy Spirit to grant consolation to their families, parents, relatives, and all our people. Our new martyrs, those defenders of the homeland who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the nation, will become immortal and worthy of eternal life in heaven, according to the promise of our Lord: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live.” Let us pray to God for the recovery of our wounded soldiers, and for the care and support of our captive children, wishing them freedom and a welcome return to our homeland.
May the love, graces and help of God protect our homeland, our people all over the world, now and always and unto the ages. Amen.
November 22, 2020