Aram I Arrives in Aleppo for Historic Pontifical Visit
Praises the Will and Determination of the Armenian community of Syria
ALEPPO, Syria—His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia arrived in Aleppo on Thursday, one week after Syrian forced liberated the besieged largely Armenian-populated city for an historic pontifical visit, which drew hundreds of community members who are reeling from the war, reported the Aleppo-based Kantsasar newspaper.
Upon arriving in Aleppo, the Catholicos and his delegation were greeted in Aleppo by the Prelate of Syria, Archbishop Shahan Sarkisian, members of the Syrian-Armenian Prelacy National Assembly, Armenia’s Deputy Consul in Aleppo Armen Gevorgyan, Syrian-Armenian Member of Parliament Jirair Reyisian, as well as the representatives of numerous Aleppo-Armenian organizations and institutions.
After the traditional blessing of salt and bread, Catholicos Aram I made his way to the St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, where he was welcomed by Archbishop Sarkisian on behalf of the Armenian community.
“Over the past five years, you—the Syrian-Armenian community and the Aleppo-Armenian community in particular—suffered greatly and endured tremendous difficulties. It is true, that I was not with you [physically] during these difficult five years, but rest assured that you were constantly present and central in my prayers and service,” the Catholicos said in his message to guests and parishioners.
Aram I went on to say that the community endured due to its unwavering faith as Christians and dedication as Armenians. “Though many were forced to leave… the Aleppo-Armenian community remains and will continue to thrive,” Aram I said.
Aram I, who on Wednesday met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said that Assad spoke about the Syrian-Armenian community with much praise. “This type of approach by a president is truly unique, and the Syrian-Armenian community is worthy of it… because of your commitment and faith in this country and its people,” said the Catholicos.
In his address, Aram I also thanked Archbishop Sarkisian and all the Armenian community organizations and institutions for their commitment to the Syrian-Armenian people during their difficult time. The Catholicos especially thanked the Armenian volunteers, who dedicated themselves to the defense and protection of Aleppo’s Armenian-populated districts.
“I assure you that the entire Armenian nation—the Republic of Armenia, the two Catholicosates, the Armenian Catholic and Evangelical Churches, all of our institutions and organizations—stood by you, because for Armenian around the world knows well that the Armenian community of Aleppo is a historic, significant community. The revitalization of the Syrian-Armenian community is a Pan-Armenian concern and a concern for all Armenians,” the Catholicos said.
The Catholicos is scheduled to meet with several community organizations and institutions during his visit to Aleppo, including the Syrian-Armenian Committee for Urgent Relief and Rehabilitation, members of the Prelacy’s National Assembly, Syrian-Armenian Parliamentarians, representatives of various churches, as well as the Mufti of Aleppo and representatives of the Muslim community.
The Catholicos will preside over Christmas Mass at Aleppo’s St. Mary Armenian Church on Jan. 6 and will spend the weekend visiting community institutions and religious leaders.