In the past few months three devoted servants of the church entered eternal life. Let us remember them in our prayers.
Catholicos Vasken I
Vasken I, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, died in August in his home in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
A native of Romania, the Catholicos was ordained a priest in Athens, Greece, in 1943. He was consecrated Bishop of the Armenian Diocese of Romania in 1951. In 1955, he was elected the 130th Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
As Catholicos, Vasken I worked vigorously to build up the Armenian Church, which was persecuted in Soviet Armenia. He initiated a vast program to restore and reopen thousands of churches. An advocate of Christian unity and interfaith dialogue, the Catholicos met with leaders of various faiths worldwide.
Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the former Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, has been elected locum tenens, or interim head, of the church through a 40-day mourning period. Vasken’s successor will be chosen at the end of this period.
Cardinal Antoine Pierre Khoraiche
Cardinal Antoine Pierre Khoraiche, the former Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, died in August at his residence in Beirut.
Elected Patriarch in 1975, his tenure as head of the Maronite Catholic Churchcoincided with the Lebanese civil war. In a broadcast over Radio Beirut in 1976, the Patriarch denounced the violence that would later reduce his beloved Lebanon to ashes: “…we can but raise our voices high and denounce all the aggression and atrocities that have been committed and are still being committed on the soil of Lebanon.”
Pope John Paul II, who named the Maronite leader a cardinal in 1983, described him as a “faithful servant” in a message of condolence.
Benedict Mar Gregorios
Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios, the Syro-Malankara Metropolitan of Trivandrum since 1955, died in early October.
A man with universal interests, Mar Gregorios believed that “Our Lord didn’t come to save souls alone, but to save people.”
An agricultural expert, the Archbishop started model farms and experimented with various plant forms to bolster the lives of his people, most of whom live on farms. Many of these small plots are supported by our Association.
As Archbishop, Mar Gregorios encouraged the renewal of the Syriac liturgy within a truly Indian context, enabling this small community, which numbered just 70,000 members in the 50s, to grow at a tremendous rate. Today the Syro-Malankara Catholic community numbers more than 300,000 people.
We mourn “the loss of this great and good man of God,” wrote Msgr. Robert L. Stern in a letter of condolence, “…the boldness of his vision and the strength of his trust in Almighty God will ever be an inspiration and a consolation to me.”
Celebrating 20 Years
December marks the 20th anniversary of Catholic Near East magazine – an event in an era of decline in the magazine publishing industry.
In 1974, our executive staff discussed the possibility of producing a magazine to acquaint our benefactors and potential donors with the work of the Association. After publishing two editions – Winter 1974 and Spring 1975 – it was decided to continue the magazine on a quarterly (now bimonthly) basis.
Remarkable things have happened in the last 20 years – the demise of the U.S.S.R.; the rebirth of the church in Eastern Europe; and the peace process in the Middle East – and all have been covered by this modest publication.
Our New Knights
In a ceremony in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 1 October, Msgr. James M. Moynihan and Brother Donald F. Mansir, F.S.C., were invested as knights in The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, which traces its origins to Godfrey de Bouillon, the 12th-century crusader sovereign of Jerusalem, supports the church in the Holy Land.
The order maintains close ties with Catholic Near East Welfare Association, of which Msgr. Moynihan is Associate Secretary General, and the Pontifical Mission, which Brother Donald serves as Vice President.
Assyrian and Eritrean Vistors
On a busy day in early October, Abune Zekarias Yohannes of the Eritrean Catholic Church and Mar Apron Khamis of the Assyrian Church of the East visited our New York offices.
In a meeting with our senior staff, Abune Zekarias discussed the international effort to rebuild the Eritrean Catholic Church, which our Association has coordinated.
Before his visit to New York, Abune Zekarias visited the Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholic communities in Washington, D.C.
Later, Mar Aprim, the newly appointed Bishop of the Western Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East, spoke about the recent ecumenical developments between the Catholic and Assyrian Churches.