Boston faith leaders honor Armenian catholicos

NEWTON -- Joining leaders of the Massachusetts Council of Churches and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis in Boston, this week Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley welcomed His Holiness Karekin II, the supreme patriarch and catholicos of the Armenian Church and affirmed his recognition of the Armenia Genocide of 1915.

“Certainly, we realize how important the theme of the genocide is to the Armenian people and we want to go on record as supporting your efforts to memorialize this and we hope that this will bring the healing and the strength to your people that is necessary,” the cardinal said is his remarks at the Oct. 8 ecumenical prayer breakfast held in honor of the visit of the catholicos.

Also at the breakfast, Catholicos Karekin was presented a copy of resolution passed by the Massachusetts Council of Churches unequivocally recognizing the reality of the genocide of the Armenian people waged by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923. The resolution was passed by the council’s board of directors earlier in the week and publicly released to coincide with the catholicos’s visit to Boston, said Rev. Jack Johnson, the council’s executive director.

The resolution has three clauses. The first rebukes and rebuts those who deny the genocide, regardless of their motivation, because denials of the certain truth of the genocide make future instances of genocide more likely. The second clause remembers those who perished, the survivors and prays for the end to all genocides. The third clause calls on all member communions of the council and their faithful to make special prayers for the Armenian people as the first Christian nation in the spirit of Christian fellowship and common witness to human suffering as exemplified by our risen Lord.

Johnson told the patriarch, “We express profound prayers of thanksgiving for you, your Holiness, for your visit among us and your leadership in rebuilding your country and the Armenian Church worldwide.”

In his own remarks, the catholicos thanked the cardinal and Rev. Johnson. “We extend our thanks for this event. We pray that God will keep our churches unified in this matter.”

Unity is an important theme in the Armenian Church, he said. “We believe in unity in the essentials and freedom in the non-essentials.”

Above all there must be unity with the Gospel and man must never disunite from the Word of God, he said. “As a nation and people we have witnessed the evils of this disunity.”

That the Armenian Church could survive the 20th century at all, after first the genocide and then 70 years of communism is a miracle, he said.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Catholicos Karekin presented Cardinal O’Malley with a large gold pectoral cross with purple stones.

Clutching the cross, the cardinal told the catholicos, “Thank you for this lovely gift, I will treasure it.”

The catholicos presents the pectoral cross as an honor to those who are friends of the Armenian Church or have been of special service to the church, said Father Ktrij Devejian, his foreign secretary.

Catholicos Karekin II is in the midst of a 33-day, 8-city tour of Armenian communities in the United States, he said.

Father Devejian said His Holiness is seeking to strengthen the bonds of the Armenian people with their motherland and their mother church.

“It is a pastoral journey bringing the faith home,” he said.

In addition to Armenian events and gatherings, the patriarch will be visiting memorials to the Jewish Genocide, such as Boston’s Holocaust Memorial near Fanueil Hall and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, said Father Devejian.