Jan 18, 2018

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Iran to Register Armenian Cathedral in Isfahan as UNESCO World Heritage Site

The interior of the "Vank" Cathedral in Isfahan, built in 1606

The interior of the “Vank” Cathedral in Isfahan, built in 1606

TEHRAN—After registering three churches as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites in Iran, the government is looking to register the Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly referred to as Vank Cathedral, in the New Julfa district of Isfahan, reported the Iran Front Page news site.

Deputy Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), Mohammad Hossein Talebian, said that there is a list of Armenian churches, three of which inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list.

Isfahan's Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly known as Vank

Isfahan’s Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly known as Vank

Addressing the closing ceremony of the joint exhibition of Iran and Armenia held at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, Talebian noted that Iran is doing its best to add other important Armenian churches, such as Vank in Isfahan, to this list.

Vank is one of the most famous cathedrals in Iran and the largest one in Isfahan province in central Iran. In terms of historical paintings and decorations, it is known as the most beautiful church in Isfahan.

It is a combination of Iranian and Armenian architecture, and this has made it a unique structure in the world.

Established in 1606, the cathedral was dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees that were resettled by Shah Abbas I during the Ottoman War of 1603-1618.

Today, the Vank is the center of communication between the Armenians of Isfahan and the southern regions of Iran with the world and is of great importance to the Armenians.


Yezidis Welcome Armenia’s Recognition of 2014 Genocide

Nadia Murad, a prominent Yezidi human rights advocate

Nadia Murad, a prominent Yezidi human rights advocate

YEREVAN—A prominent Yezidi human rights activist and a Yezidi advocacy group have welcomed the recognition of the Yezidi Genocide by the Armenian parliament, describing it as “a historic fact.”

The Armenian Parliament on Tuesday unanimously adopted a statement, recognizing and condemning the Yezidi Genocide on terrorist-controlled territories of Iraq.

“Today is a historic moment for the entire Yezidi community worldwide and for victims of this genocide. We welcome this important step especially as it comes from a country which, in recent history, has suffered greatly from genocide,” they said in a statement.

“I am touched by today’s decision and I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Armenia and their representatives in Parliament. Acknowledgment of the Genocide means a lot to me and all the victims of genocide.” said Nadia Murad, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

“The Yezidi genocide is the latest capital crime of our century, the world should recognize this crime and accept the fact it happened, not only recognize it, but take the steps to stop it and adopt mechanisms to ensure it will not be repeated in the future” said Murad Ismael, the executive director Yazda, a Yezidi advocacy organization based in the United States.

Yazda and Nadia Murad expressed their gratitude to the Armenia parliament’ Standing Committee on Foreign Relationp; Rustam Makhmudyan a Yezidi member of the Armenian parliament; Vahram Baghdasaryan the leader of the Republican Party of Armenia; Armen Rustamyan, leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation parliamentary blos, as well as the Tsarukyan and Yelk factions.

They also thanked all the members of the parliament who supported the initiative.


L.A. Community Honors Grammy Nominees Mansurian and Orbelian

Maestro Orbelian with Mrs. Alice Navasargian, one of the sponsors of the luncheon Maestro Orbelian with Drs. Nazareth and Ani Darakjian, one of the sponsors of the luncheon Maestro Orbelian with the Organizing Committee, from left,  Flora Dunaiants,  Elizabeth Agbabian and  Hermine Janoyan Maestro Orbelian with Mr. & Mrs. Mansurian Maestro Orbelian with the Sharafyan family Maestro Orbelian and Valeri Mkrtumyan, Armenia's Consulate General Maestro Orbelian with Savey Tufenkian

STUDIO CITY, Calif.—At a celebration luncheon held on January 13 in Los Angeles, the Armenian community honored two Armenian musicians, Tigran Mansurian and Constantine Orbelian, on the occasion of their nomination for the prestigious Grammy Awards.

The luncheon, which took place at Bistro Garden in Studio City, was attended by a cross section of cultural leaders and music lovers. It was sponsored by Drs. Nazareth and Ani Darakjian, Mrs. Alice Navasargian, and Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Joyce Stein.

Prof. Peter Cowe, UCLA Naregatsi Chair, EmCee-d the luncheon

Prof. Peter Cowe, UCLA Naregatsi Chair, EmCee-d the luncheon

In his opening remarks, the event’s Master of Ceremonies, Prof. Peter Cowe, Narekatsi Chair of Armenian Studies at UCLA, formally introduced the honorees and encapsulated the achievements for which they have received Grammy Award nominations from the Recording Academy. As importantly, Prof. Cowe highlighted the fact that this year marks the 85th anniversary of the Yerevan Opera House, as well as the 150th anniversary of Armenian opera, which was founded with the operatic masterpiece Arshak II.

Later during the luncheon, Prof. Cowe also presented the biographies of the honorees, detailing their outstanding bodies of work.

Tigran Mansurian, recognized as a People’s Artist of the Republic of Armenia, is a leading composer of classical music and film scores. His “Requiem” has been nominated for the Grammy Award in two categories: Best Choral Performance and Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Constantine Orbelian is a globally acclaimed pianist and conductor, and an Honored Artist of the Russian Federation. Since June 2016, he has helmed the National Opera and Ballet Theater of Armenia (the Yerevan Opera House) as its General Director and Artistic Director. His recording of Sviridov’s “Russia Cast Adrift,” featuring the late baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the State Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg, has received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Conductor on a Solo Vocal Album.

Asbarez English Editor Ara Khachaturian  interviewing Maestro Orbelian

Asbarez English Editor Ara Khachaturian interviewing Maestro Orbelian

Following Prof. Cowe’s remarks, the guests were treated to a musical interlude performed by pianist Artashes Kartalyan.

Subsequently, in the event’s most anticipated segment, Maestro Orbelian was interviewed on stage by Asbare” English editor Ara Khachatourian. The lively, highly informative conversation touched on current plans for expanding the activities of the Yerevan Opera House through new musical productions, performances abroad, educational programs, and community outreach; and the need for substantial pan-Armenian support toward the further modernization and development of the Yerevan Opera House, as a dynamic cultural hub and a national treasure.

The interview was streamed on Facebook Live. Click to watch.


Funeral Notice: Arevi Manoukian

Arevi Manoukian

Arevi Manoukian

AREVI MANOUKIAN
Born on June 26, 1933

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved mother Arevi Manoukian on Friday, January 12, 2018.

Her love and devotion will be an example for us for the rest of our days. We take solace that her last recollections were of spending time with those she loved during recent holidays. May she find rest and joy in the Lord’s presence.

Funeral Services followed by internment will be held on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 9 a.m. at the Old North Church in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068.
She is survived by her;
Daughter, Loudmilla and Garegin Vertanessian
Son, Leonard and Marina Manoukian
Grandchildren, Artin, Nyree, Armand and Alex, and great grandchild Ari,
Sister, Arax Peerali, her children and their families,
Brother, Johnny and Lidoush Avanessian, their children and their families,
Nieces, Ojeni Sammis and Hermine Panossian and families
Nephews, Harout Panossian and Hamlet Panossian and families
And all relatives and friends

A memorial reception will take place following the funeral services at 3751 San Augustine Drive, Glendale, CA 91206.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Ararat Home of Los Angeles.


The Distorted Image of Politics in Armenia

Razmig Shirinian

Razmig Shirinian

BY RAZMIG SHIRNIAN

When people walk or drive on roads with potholes, do not enjoy public or private toilets, electricity, and running cold or hot water in their houses, or do not have a government that provides basic services, such as health care, paved roads, education, and law and order, then it is less likely for citizens to show faith in government, have free and fair elections, or have any input in the political direction their country will take.

On the other hand, when people have access to basic utilities and enjoy comfortable living, it becomes easier for them to organize assemblies, express and publish their opinion, and get politically active. Poor and dysfunctional infrastructure has negative consequences on participation, skills, education, economic success and development. This assumption follows a simple public opinion that infrastructural rights are closely correlated with public capabilities and political rights. Stated differently, infrastructure is the basic element of political participation and development, as well as an element to advance human rights and freedom.

Both party leaders and policymakers in Armenia have not been able localize politics, or understand the politics of infrastructure, nor have they advanced an inward-looking strategy for development of the country. They yet have to realize that Armenian politics is not about diplomatic negotiations, it is not about power relations or presidential summits, and it is not about Diaspora organizations or individuals in their globalized role in an attempt to find the so called global vision for Armenian life. Apart from these international and diplomatic efforts, Armenian politics is all about roads, bathrooms, rest areas, livable wages, adequate houses, labor and production in the country. Politics, in other words, is about the infrastructural elements of development. People leave their country and emigrate not because of war in Artsakh, but primarily because of their deprived capabilities, because of underdeveloped conditions of the key infrastructural fundamentals.

Here, the term politics, and the interpretation of it, should have a local context. Ironically, the established tradition of political understanding and its interpretation suggest looking at the government as the primary owner of politics. In this outlook there seems to be a distorted image of politics confined within a hierarchical relationship in society. Instead, Armenian politics, I believe, becomes more significant and useful if we look at it from the public view. It is at the popular level that we see the horizontal and infrastructural relations with all-inclusive, moral-ethical, social, and cultural dimensions in which politics becomes meaningful. We look at infrastructure both as policy value and policy practice belonging to the people who ultimately can liberate themselves from constant emigration.

To meet the basic infrastructural needs of the people also suggests satisfaction of their basic socio-economic and political needs. Our national philosophy for survival and development should primarily focus on Armenia’s infrastructure. After all, the simple and the daily life of the ordinary citizens is also their politics. For them, parliamentary or presidential elections, coalitions and oppositions in the government, or diplomatic relations with other countries are distant realities and are detached from their daily living conditions and relations. Politics for the low income families is to heat their houses with wood or whatever they find because they have no heating system with natural gas. When we read news such as “40,000 people left Armenia in 2017,” or “residents of Buzhakan, a village in Armenia’s Kotayk Province, have been without natural gas since the country gained independence 26 years ago,” we cannot help but conclude that our leaders are ill-informed about politics and their ignorance about infrastructure brought us here.

Many observers and reporters point out that about seventy percent of the Armenian population is poor. About half of the population lives in apartments that are in deplorable condition and continue to deteriorate. Thus, the main political challenge is to build and develop sufficient energy insulation, improve condition of the gas, water and sewerage systems, hygienic conditions of bathrooms and kitchens, and access to drinking water.

The economic and political institutions in the country have yet to function inclusively and respond to the basic infrastructural needs of the people. That requires work with low-income families to build, renovate or improve homes that can be paid for by budgeted public policies or by affordable loans. Economic or microfinance institutions, as a development plan, can provide families with access to micro-loans to finance home repairs, improve their water, gas, and sanitation conditions. There is no reason for Armenians to be unemployed. This is what politics is all about which, in turn, builds self-resilience, improves social well-being, and more freedom in the area of political participation.

Some identify Armenians as a global nation. The identity of the global nation, however, does not correlate with the image of the state. What we, in fact, have today is an elitist government, or a globalized government very distant from grievances of ordinary people. A globalized government that is very distant from politics.

Razmig B. Shirinian is a Professor of Political Science at the College of the Canyons.


Pallone Calls for Unrestricted Travel and Communication Between U.S. and Artsakh

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) addressing the Republic of Artsakh parliament on September 20, 2017

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) addressing the Republic of Artsakh parliament on September 20, 2017

ANCA-Backed “U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution” Encourages US-Artsakh Visits and Dialogue at All Levels; Endorses Royce-Engel Proposals to Strengthen Cease-Fire

WASHINGTON—Congressional Armenian Caucus founding Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) on Wednesday called on his Congressional colleagues to break down artificial barriers to unrestricted travel and open communication between the United States and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), with the introduction of the U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

“The United States should be supporting the free flow of dialogue and ideas across the globe,” said Rep. Pallone. “Artsakh has a successful democratic government and it should not be precluded from interacting with the United States and other nations. My visit to Artsakh in September further revealed the enormous strides that Artsakh has made in recent years, and others should be given the same opportunity that I had. Rather than hindering fast developing nations like. Rather than hindering our relationship with Artsakh through non-recognition, the United States should embrace increased communications and travel to Artsakh,” concluded Rep. Pallone.

“We thank Congressman Pallone for taking a legislative sledgehammer to the walls that have, for far too long, prevented the very type of open dialogue that is so very necessary for a durable and democratic Artsakh peace,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “Our U.S. interests and American values are served by the open and unrestricted exchange of views among all regional stakeholders, the ability of U.S. policymakers to travel to Artsakh and witness first-hand the progress of this proud republic in the face of ongoing Azerbaijani aggression, and, ultimately, by a greater level of understanding among U.S. leaders and all regional stakeholders of the imperative of peace and the necessity of avoiding a renewed war.”

The U.S. – Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution praises the Artsakh Republic for having “developed democratic institutions, fostered a pluralist political system, and, over the past quarter-century, held parliamentary and presidential elections that have been rated as free and fair by international observers.” It also highlights Artsakh’s commitment to common-sense peace initiatives, first advocated by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), calling for the removal of snipers and heavy artillery from the Artsakh-Azerbaijan line of contact, the deployment of additional Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, and the placement of gun-fire locator systems along the lines of contact. The measures, which have been embraced by Armenia, Artsakh, and the OSCE Minsk Group peace negotiators, have been thus far blocked by Azerbaijan.

ro-Artsakh advocates are encouraged to urge their U.S. legislators to cosponsor Rep. Pallone’s U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution. Take Action by clicking photo

ro-Artsakh advocates are encouraged to urge their U.S. legislators to cosponsor Rep. Pallone’s U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution. Take Action by clicking photo

The U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communications Resolution notes that current State Department policies place “self-imposed restrictions on travel and communications between the United States and Artsakh, limiting oversight of United States taxpayer-funded assistance programs and discouraging the open dialogue and discourse that can contribute to a peaceful resolution of Artsakh-related status and security issues.”

The measure calls for a U.S. policy which would:
1. allow officials at all levels of the United States Government, including cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials, to travel to the Artsakh Republic and openly and directly communicate with their Artsakh counterparts;
2. encourage ongoing open communication, meetings, and other direct contacts between officials of Artsakh and the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States, state and local governments, and American civil society; and
3. seek the full and direct participation of the democratically-elected government of the Artsakh Republic in all OSCE and other negotiations regarding its future.

Pro-Artsakh advocates can encourage their U.S. Representative to support the measure.

Rep. Pallone is the most traveled U.S. Congressman to the Republic of Artsakh since its independence in 1991. He last visited the region in September, 2017, joined by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and David Valadao (R-CA). In remarks before the Artsakh Parliament, Rep. Pallone touted the Republic’s commitment to democracy, self-determination and economic development and discussed the Armenian Caucus’ on-going efforts to share Artsakh’s powerful story of peace and freedom with Congress and the Administration. “Whatever we do, we will always insist that Artsakh has to be Armenian and it has to be able to exercise its right to self-determination,” Rep. Pallone told Artsakh Parliamentarians.

Excerpts of his September 20, 2017, remarks before the Artsakh Parliament are available on the ANCA YouTube channel at:

Rep. Pallone is currently serving his 15th term in Congress, representing New Jersey’s sixth Congressional District, which covers most of Middlesex County, as well as the Bayshore and oceanfront areas of Monmouth County. He is the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues pertaining to energy, environment, healthcare, commerce, and telecommunications.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) with ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian in Artsakh – September, 2017

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) with ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian in Artsakh – September, 2017

As founder and a Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, Rep. Pallone has been a leading voice on Armenian American issues since 1988. He has been a consistent cosponsor of Armenian Genocide legislation. Working with his colleagues, he has initiated calls for expanded U.S. assistance to Armenia and Artsakh and spoken out about the plight of Armenians and other Christians in the Middle East. He has been a perennial participant at Armenian American community events, including the Armenian Genocide Observance at Times Square.

Frank Pallone, Jr., was born and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey, where he still resides. He is a graduate of Middlebury College, holds a master’s degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and earned his law degree at Rutgers University.

Pallone began his political career in his home city of Long Branch, getting elected to the City Council in 1982 and winning re-election four years later. In 1983, Pallone was elected to the state Senate, representing the Monmouth County coastline. He was re-elected in 1987, and won a special election in 1988 to replace the late Rep. James Howard (D-NJ).


Armenia’s New President to be Elected on March 2

The Presidential Seal of Armenia

The Presidential Seal of Armenia

YEREVAN—Armenia’s new constitution stipulates that the National Assembly elect a president, a position that is more symbolic than the prime minister who will be the head of state as Armenia moves toward a parliamentary form of government. On Monday it was announced that the election of the president will take place on March 2.

Vahram Baghdasaryan, Head of the National Assembly’s Republican faction told reporters on Monday that his ruling Republican Party of Armenia is expected to discuss candidates as early as this week.

Baghdasaryan added that the newly-elected president should be popular among the public and meet certain criteria.

“There are such people in our country, but you will not hear their names now, as no discussions have been held,” the lawmaker said.

He said names will be revealed after discussions this week and added that the public will be kept informed.

President Serzh Sarkisian is not eligible to assume the role of president as per the constitution he will be termed out.


Armenia Condemns 2014 Yezidi Genocide

Thousands of Yezidis fled Mount Sinjar in Iraq

Thousands of Yezidis fled Mount Sinjar in Iraq

YEREVAN (ArmRadio)—The Armenian National Assembly unanimously adopted a statement on Monday recognizing and condemning the genocide against the Yezidi people in 2014 on terrorist-controlled territories of Iraq, reported the parliament press office.

Armenia thus strongly condemns all expressions of terrorism and radical ideology, the targeted persecution and cruel attitude toward the Yezidi people on the aforementioned territories.

The statement emphasizes the responsibility of states to respect the rights of ethnic and religious minorities stipulated by international law.

It reiterates the commitment of the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian people to fight to prevent genocides and other crimes against humanity.

The Armenian Parliament also calls to investigate those crimes through international structures and hold the perpetrators accountable.

It urges the international community to take measures to ensure the security of the Yezidi population and provide them with humanitarian assistance, to spare no efforts to prevent human rights violations.

“Had the international community or the superpowers recognized the Armenian Genocide at the time, we would not witness genocides against Yezidis or other peoples,” MP Knyaz Hasanov said.

Lawmaker Shirak Torosyan said that Armenia should be among the authors of initiatives aimed at recognizing, condemning and preventing genocides.

According to Member of Parliament Samvel Farmanyan, the statement is of historic importance. He said that “as a nation that has been subjected to genocide, we have to express our stance on the condemnation and prevention of that crime against humanity.”


ARF Celebrates 127th Anniversary with Capacity Audience

The Homenetmen scouts conduct the flag ceremony during ARF's 127th anniversary celebration in Glendale on Sunday

The Homenetmen scouts conduct the flag ceremony during ARF’s 127th anniversary celebration in Glendale on Sunday

GLENDALE—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee marked the party’s 127th anniversary during a celebration Sunday at Glendale High School’s John Wayne Auditorium, which was filled to capacity with community members who had gathered to hear an accounting of the party’s activities from its leaders and to mark the milestone with enthusiasm and fervor.

Present at the event were leaders of the four denominations of the Armenian Churches, community members, organizational leaders and representatives and ARF members and supporters.

The Homenetmen scouts and marching band during the ARF Day celebration

The Homenetmen scouts and marching band during the ARF Day celebration

The program began with the Homenetmen Marching band ushering in a group of scouts who were carrying the flags of Armenia, Artsakh, the United States, State of California and the ARF. They were followed by another group of scouts who were waving the Armenian tri-color in an impressive flag ceremony that included the performance of the national anthems of Armenia, Artsakh, the U.S., as well as the official anthem of the ARF. This year, following the singing of the traditional anthems, a brief video introducing the Homenetmen and its 100 years of achievements were also included during the flag ceremony, which concluded with the performance of the “Haratch Nahadag,” the official anthem of the Homenetmen, which in 2018 will mark the centennial of its founding.

The Mistress of Cermonies, Dr. Souzy Ohanian, welcomed the attendees and presented a brief overview of the ARF as well as the evening’s program, which was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.

Patil Derderian presented remarks on behalf of the Armenian Youth Federation, which on that day, January 14, was marking the 85th anniversary of its establishment. ARF Western US Central Committee member Garo Ispendjian presented an overview of the ARF’s activities in the past year and delineated some of the key focal points for the party in 2018. The keynote speaker of the evening was ARF Bureau member Dr. Viken Yacoubian, who among other issues emphasized the need for the Diaspora to recalibrate itself to better serve the Armenian Nation.

The Ferrahian school chorus performs patriotic songs during the celebration

The Ferrahian school chorus performs patriotic songs during the celebration

Throughout the program, video vignettes highlighted the activities of the AYF, the AYF Juniors and the Homenetmen. An “In Memoriam” video paid tribute to ARF members from the Western Region who had passed away in the last year.

The cultural portion of the program included a dance performance by the Hamazkayin Ani Dance Troupe, as well as musical performances by Karnig Sarkisian, Tro Krikorian and Edgar Hakpyan.

The celebration concluded with the performance of patriotic songs by the Ferrahian Armenian School Chorus, conducted by Araxia Varteressian. The group was joined by revolutionary singer Karnig Sarkisian for the performance of “Ariunot Trosh—Bloody Flag,” which enjoyed an enthusiastic standing ovation and participation from the audience.

Asbarez will have a more detailed coverage of the celebration in its upcoming editions.


Historic Ordination of a Deaconess in the Tehran Prelacy

Ani-Kristi Manvelian was ordained a deaconess by the Tehran Prelate

Ani-Kristi Manvelian was ordained a deaconess by the Tehran Prelate

BY HRATCH TCHILINGIRIAN

The Prelate of Tehran ordained a young woman as a deaconess in Tehran’s St. Sarkis Mother Church on September 25, 2017. Even as the office of deaconess had existed in Armenian Church convents for centuries, this was a historic first. It is the first time that a lay woman, not a nun, was ordained a “parish deacon.”

Twenty-four year old Ani-Kristi Manvelian, an anesthesiologist by profession, was ordained — along with Mayis Mateosian — by Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, the Primate of the Diocese of Tehran.

“What I have done is in conformity with the Tradition of the Church and nothing else,” said Archbishop Sarkissian. This was his personal initiative as a diocesan primate in order, as he explained, “to revitalize the participation of women also in our church’s liturgical life,” adding, “do not be surprised, a woman could also become a servant of the Holy Altar.”

Ani-Kristi Manvelian on the altar at St. Sarkis Church in Tehran

Ani-Kristi Manvelian on the altar at St. Sarkis Church in Tehran

Deaconess Ani-Kristi has been involved in the life of the church in Tehran since she was very young. She used to perform the duties of an acolyte (դպիր) during church services, such as reading the psalms and carrying the ceremonial candle.

In explaining the purpose of the ordination, Archbishop Sarkissian said: “Today, our Church is confronting the imperative of self-examination and self-critique. It is imperative to rejuvenate the participation of the people in the social, educational and service spheres of the Church. It is our deep conviction that the active participation of women in the life of our Church would allow Armenian women to be involved more enthusiastically and vigorously, and would allow them to be connected and engaged. They would provide dedicated and loving service [to the people]. The deaconess, no doubt, would also be a spiritual and church-dedicated mother, educator, and why not, a model woman through her example. It is with this deep conviction that we are performing this ordination, with the hope that we are neither the first nor the last to do it.”

According to the Prelate, parish priests in Tehran are watchful and keen to recruit more women who fit the profile of prospective deaconesses.

What is special and novel about Deaconess Ani-Kristi Manvelian’s ordination is that she is a “parish” deacon — that is, she is not a member of a convent or a religious order, like the Kalfayan Sisters in Istanbul or Gayanyants Sisters at Birds Nest in Jibel, Lebanon, who have a few sisters among their ranks and are not ordained deaconesses.

Like her male counterparts in the Armenian Church, if and when Deaconess Ani-Kristi marries, she will continue to serve as a deaconess.

Deaconesses have been part of the Christian tradition from the early years of the faith. There are numerous references in the Epistles and early Church writings.

In the Armenian Church tradition, the development of the office of female diaconate is divided into four historical periods according to Fr. Abel Oghlukian, the author of a study on the subject: (a) 4th-8th centuries in Greater Armenia; (b) 9th-11th centuries in Eastern and Cilician Armenia, where the term “deaconess” is included in the book of ordination (Մաշտոց); (c) 12th century and on, where there are “literary references and rites for the ordination of deaconesses in liturgical texts in Cilicia and eastern Armenia; and (d) 17th century renewal of female diaconate.

The last ordained monastic deaconess in the Armenian Church was Sister Hripsime Sasounian in Istanbul. The late Patriarch Shnork Kalustian of Constantinople ordained Sister Hripsime of Kalfayan Sisters (established in 1866) as a deaconess in 1982, using the canon of ordination used for male deacons (Ձեռնադրութեան Մաշտոց). Damascus-born Deaconess Hripsime was 54 years old at the time. She passed away in 2007.

In North America, Seta Simonian Atamian was the first adult women ordained as an acolyte (դպիր), a lower rank, by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian of the Western Diocese in 1984 at St. Andrew Armenian Church, in Cupertino, California. However, when in 1986 she moved to the East Coast of the United States, she was not allowed by the local diocese to serve on the altar in the Armenian Church.

Even as this is a most welcome step by Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian and the Prelacy of Tehran (under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia), the Armenian Apostolic Church has yet to formally restore the office of female diaconate.

Today the question is how to revive the female diaconate for the pastoral life of local parishes rather than in monastic settings or convents, which are virtually non-existent as viable institutions.

Dr. Hratch Tchilingirian is a scholar at University of Oxford (www.hratch.info).


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