Jerusalem Bids Farewell to the Armenian Patriarch

Sami El-Yousef is CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel.

His Beatitude Torkom II, Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Jerusalem, was laid to rest at the Armenian cemetery at Mount Zion just outside the walls of the Old City today. The funeral was attended by many religious leaders, as well as Palestinian and Israeli officials. His Beatitude died on 12 October at the infirmary of the Custody of the Holy Land in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Franciscan friars, who run the infirmary, had been caring for the elderly patriarch since falling into a coma earlier this year.

Patriarch Torkom was born in Iraq on 16 February 1919. In his early years, he moved to Jerusalem to attend the Armenian Seminary of St. James. He was ordained a deacon in 1936 and a priest in 1939. Between 1939 and 1946, he served in various capacities in Jerusalem before moving to Philadelphia to serve the Armenian community there. Since then, he has served in various capacities in the United States and in Jerusalem, including the Armenian Apostolic archdiocese based in New York. In 1990, he was elected the 96th Armenian Apostolic patriarch of Jerusalem.

The patriarchate appointed Bishop Nourhan Manogian as caretaker on 30 January as the patriarch’s health began to fail, and he continues to assume this role until the election of a new patriarch. This will take place after the traditional 40-day mourning period is completed, most likely sometime in December.

I was privileged to visit His Beatitude in December of last year during Msgr. John Kozar’s visit to the Holy Land. Despite the patriarch’s frail health, he received us and reflected on the situation in the Holy Land and the importance of the Christian presence and of closer relations between the various churches. Little did we know that his health would deteriorate dramatically shortly thereafter. He suffered a stroke on Armenian Christmas, which was celebrated on 18 January. The stroke left him paralyzed and in a coma until his death.

May he rest in peace!

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