During his visit to Armenia earlier this month to attend meetings of the Supreme Spiritual Council, Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel had a unique opportunity to visit a remarkable institution serving our Lord and the church in our homeland.
His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, brought the Primate to Ghazaravank—the Monastery of Lazarus—located some miles away from the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. The distinguishing feature of this relatively young institution is that it is community of monastic women.
“My visit with Vehapar to the women’s monastery of Ghazaravank was the highlight of my visit,” said Bishop Daniel. “We spent a couple of hours there, meeting the residents and speaking about their work and vocation. They are all educated women—with backgrounds in music, academics, and information technology—who for different reasons felt callings to devote their lives to Christ and prayer.”
The nuns maintain a large garden and are largely self-sufficient in their day-to-day living. They have taken it upon themselves to catalogue various international texts on monastic life, and translate these into Armenian.
“To me, Ghazaravank shows that monastic spirituality is instinctive to Armenian Christianity,” the Primate said. “Vehapar has been supporting their vocation by introducing them to nuns from other traditions, to counsel and inspire the residents of Ghazaravank.”
He added: “I found myself deeply inspired by the experience, and by the commitment to Christian spirituality shown by these women. It’s something we should consider for our own Diocese: to establish similar monasteries here, for women and men among our own community who feel called to serve the Lord in this way.”
Bishop Daniel was visiting Armenia at the request of His Holiness Karekin II, to take part in an expanded session of the church’s Supreme Spiritual Council, alongside fellow primates from the church’s major dioceses in Armenia and the diaspora.
“It was a privilege to sit in on all the meetings of the Supreme Spiritual Council,” Bishop Daniel said: “to take part in the discussions, and to be invited to share my own views, and developments in the Eastern Diocese.”
His fellow bishops attending the meetings “were very interested in the ‘Building Up the Body of Christ’ vision being undertaken by our Diocese,” he said.
In addition to the formal council meetings, the Primate had the opportunity to meet personally with Catholicos Karekin II. “Vehapar received me warmly and with great affections, and we spent several hours together,” Bishop Daniel said. “He was eager to hear about the work of the Eastern Diocese, and the challenges we are facing. And he was equally eager to assist us in addressing our mission.”
For his part, the Catholicos discussed the critical need for faith-building in Armenia, in light of the effects of the pandemic, the Artsakh war, and lingering societal concerns. “As he did in the council meetings, Vehapar emphasized the importance of the church going out robustly among the people, and not waiting for the people to come to the church.”
Bishop Daniel noted that the expanded session of the Supreme Spiritual Council included a number of clergyman aside from himself with roots in the Eastern Diocese. “Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, our former long-serving Primate, chaired all the meetings. Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian and Archbishop Avak Assadourian–respectively the Primates of France and Iraq, who spent the formative years of their ministries in the Diocese–were also very involved in the council meetings.”