FORMER PRIMATES

IMG_7699Abp. Vazken Keshishian (October 1984 – March 1990)

Born Nubar Keshishian, the late first Primate of the Armenian Church Diocese of Canada, Archbishop Vazken Keshishian was born on June 10, 1935 in Bilan, Turkey. In 1940 his family settled in Beirut, Lebanon, where he attended the local community school and later attended the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoogian High School of Beirut.

Since early childhood Nubar manifested an inclination toward the church, inspired by the religious atmosphere at home. In 1949 Nubar the teenager walked into the Seminary of the Catholicosate of the Greater House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon, under the guidance of Bishop Terenig Poladian. The young seminarian demonstrated a talent for writing and won several prizes in literary contests. In 1951 Abp. Khat Atchabahian ordained him a Tebir, while he also enjoyed playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, swimming and climbing. In 1953, as a student of the Novitiate (Undzayaran) Nubar was exposed to Theology, the Bible, Philosophy, Psychology and other subjects. In 1956 he moved to St. James Monastery of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where he became the administrator of the Printing Press, edited “Sion” periodical, the official monthly of the Patriarchate, as well as taught at the Holy Translators Secondary School.

In 1959, Archbishop Mampre Sirounian, Primate of Egypt, ordained him celibate priest, renaming him Vazken after the name of H. H. Catholicos Vazken I; he became a member of the Brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Fr. Vazken’s first mission as a parish priest was Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he arrived on December 13, 1959 and within a short period of time he revived the small local Armenian community. In 1961 he was invited by HH Catholicos Vazken I to visit the Motherland and the Mother See. He was directed by His Holiness to go to France to pursue theological studies, and he was assigned by Abp. Serovpe Manoukian as pastor of the Armenian community of Marseille, where Fr. Vazken played a crucial role in the renovation of two churches, building of two rectories and halls, reviving the cultural and religious life and the publishing of Keghart Monthly. He also played a central role in maintaining the unity of the church, restoring peace and integrity of the Armenian Church. From 1962-65 he attended the university of Aix En-Provence and graduated with honors in Philosophy and psychology, as well as merited the degree of Vartabed and the privilege to wear a pectoral cross.

In 1965 when Fr. Vazken was assigned to go to Greece he confronted the unpleasant situation to be deported like all other Armenian Clergy affiliated to the Mother See, but he managed to meet the Prime Minister and revoked the deportation and ban. He organized the first march and commemoration ceremonies on the fiftieth anniversary of the Genocide. He was awarded by the Greek and Romanian primates as well as by Catholicos Vazken I.

From 1968 on, in quick succession Fr. Vazken held pastoral responsibilities in Buenos Ayres, then in the US parishes of South Milwaukee, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Lawrence (renovated the church), and was appointed Vicar of Canada. In 1976 Abp. Torkom Manoogian conferred upon him the degree of Dzayrakouyn Vartabed. In 1971 Fr. Vazken was assigned Pastor of Holy Trinity Church of Toronto and as Vicar General stabilized many turbulent phases of the Canadian Armenian community. In 1980 he returned to the US as pastor of Providence’s Sts. Sahag and Mesrob church.

In 1983 he was elected member of the Diocesan Council of the Eastern Diocese of US, and soon after he was appointed Locum Tenens of Canada as the latter was had embarked upon the process of becoming an independent Diocese. At the second Diocesan Assembly of Canada held on October 6, 1984, he was unanimously elected as first Primate of the new Diocese. On October 14, 1984 Fr. Vazken received the rank of Bishop conferred upon him by HH Vazken I, Catholicos of All Armenians on the 25th anniversary of his of priesthood. In 1988 he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop, but his health deteriorated rapidly and he passed away in March 1990. He is buried in the Ville St. Laurent cemetery.

23AbpHovnan2012Abp. Hovnan Derderian (May 1990 – May 2003)

Abp. Hovnan Derderian was born in Beirut, Lebanon, on December 1,1957. His baptismal name was Vahram. From 1970 to 1975 he was educated at the Armenian Seminary of Antelias, and from 1976 to 1980 he continued his theological education in the Kevorkian Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin. In 1980 he was ordained to celibate priesthood by Catholicos Vazken 1, then continued post-graduate education in Oxford University, England, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 1983. In 1984 he was raised to the rank of Vartabed by the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Catholicos Vazken I. In 1986 his services to the Armenian Church were commended by a second Pontifical Encyclical by Catholicos Vazken I.

In 1988 he organized humanitarian aid for the victims of the devastating earthquake in Armenia, by appealing to sister churches and other communities. In the meantime he was able to pursue his higher education and to receive his Masters Degree. Two years later, the third Pontifical Encyclical by Catholicos Vazken I raised him to the rank of Dzayrakouyn Vartabed [Archimandrite]. In the month of May 1990 he was elected Primate of the Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church for a term of five years. On October 7 of the same year he was ordained to the rank of Bishop by H.H. Catholicos Vazken I in Holy Etchmiadzin. In 1993 he was raised to the rank of Archbishop, and two years later he was reelected Primate of the Canadian Diocese for a second five-year term.

During the year 2000 he was appointed General Director to the 1700th anniversary celebrations of Armenia’s adoption of Christianity. On May 2,2003, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian was elected Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church Diocese of Western United States based in Los Angeles, California. Since 1984 he has published 26 books and booklets and has carried editorial responsibilities. Also, since 1984 he has become a member of the Middle-Eastern Council of Churches, and an executive member of the Canadian Council of Churches.

Among prestigious awards bestowed upon Archbishop Hovnan Derderian are: – In 1992, the medal of 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada awarded by the Federal Government of Canada. – In 1993, Pontifical Encyclical on being raised to the rank of Archbishop. – In 1994, Special Citizenship Award, by the Federal Government of Canada. – In 1996, Armenian Passport by President Levon Ter Petrosian, through Ambassador Karnig Nanakoulian. – In 2000, Honorary Citation by the International Informatization Academy of the United Nations.

Bishop Bagrat GalstanianBishop Bagrat Galstanian (May 2003- May 2013)

Bishop Bagrat Galstanian was born in Gyumri, Armenia, on May 20, 1971, and was given the name, Vazgen, at his baptism. Having attended the Gevorgyan Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin, in Armenia, he received the ordination of deacon, in 1993 from Bishop Anania Arabajyan.

In 1995 he received excellent mark for his thesis on “The Commendatory and Theology of Khosrov of Andzrev on Daily Prayers of our Church.” The same year, late Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin I, ordained Vazgen a celibate priest, in the name of Archbishop Bagrat Vardazarian, who had been martyred in 1937 repressions.

In 1995, while holding the position as director of St. Gregory the Illuminator Sunday of School in Holy Etchmiadzin, Bishop Bagrat was appointed as vice-president of the newly established Centre of Christian Education and Preaching. During this period, his responsibilities included the teaching of the Holy Liturgy, Church History and Theology and Armenian Church hymns, in the Gevorgyan and Vazgenyan Seminaries in Armenia.

In 1996, he became editor in chief of “Etchmiadzin” a monthly official publication of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Also, he was involved in the preparation of religious teachers in five regions of Armenia through the Christian Education and Preaching Centre. These included the American University in Yerevan, and in the regions of Etchmiadzin, Armavir, Masis, Artashat, and Aparan. He was one of the founding members of “Gantegh” religious television programming. During the years of 1996 to 1998, in his role as secretary, Bishop Bagrat assisted His Holiness Karekin I, in His Pontifical visits to South America, Moscow, U.K., and Austria. In Austria, he participated, as a delegate, in the second Council of European Churches in Grats. On the recommendation of His Holiness Karekin I in 1998, he was sent to England to study at the University of Leeds. He attended studies at the Holy Resurrection Theological College of Mirfield, at the same time assuming the position of visiting priest of Manchester’s Holy Trinity Armenian Church, until the year 2000.

Throughout the years of 1996 to 2000, Bishop Bagrat, was an active contributing member of the organizing Executive Committee of the celebrations for the 1700th Anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in Armenia. In 2000, upon the completion of his studies in England, Bishop Bagrat returned to Armenia where the Catholicos of all Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II appointed him, as the principal of the Vazgenyan Theological Seminary, in Sevan. At the Seminary, His Eminence taught Theology of St. Paul, Theology of St. John, and Church History. Under his leadership, the “Lousavorich” polyphonic choir was formed. Subsequently they produced two very successful recordings, “Arevagal in Geghard and “Komitasian Patarag” in CD format. The choir held concerts in Yerevan, and performed to audiences in Etchmiadzin, Sevan, and throughout Armenia. The Vazgenyan Seminary also published its first annual theological magazine, “Sourp Arakelots”. While at the Seminary, Bishop Bagrat was instrumental in introducing the subject of “Green Theology” for the first time in Eastern European and the former Soviet Republic and its churches. In cooperation with World Council of Church’s office in the Mother See “Round Table,” this subject was brought to the Seminary, and thus introduced to the Armenian Church. In recent years, ecology has become one of the key issues to affect the global human conscience as the devastating results of planetary abuse are now being realized. In keeping with this, theologians have begun to face the implications of this new ‘Eco-awareness’ and have developed a Green Theology in response.

In 2002 he received the rank of Vardapet for his thesis on “The Problem of the Sacrament of anointing the sick in the Armenian Church.”At this time, Bishop Bagrat was appointed as the head of the newly founded department of Media, Relations and Communications of Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. This position also included directorship of spiritual programming on “Shoghagat” television. Bishop Bagrat became the moderator on his own series, “To Know the Gospel” which consisted of weekly sermons and commentaries on the New Testament, including numerous episodes of debates and discussions on important topics concerning spiritual, national, and cultural life of the faithful. Bishop Bagrat Galstanian has published numerous articles on theology, social, cultural spheres concerning Armenia, and the Armenian Church.

In 2002, he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Arakadzodn in Armenia. During his short tenure, His Eminence worked to build opportunities and programs for the young. Bishop Bagrat founded a children’s dance group and choir in Oshakan, expanded and restructured the Christian Education Center, and established “Youth Computing Centers”. in Astarak, Aparan and Talin were re-obtained from the government 17 monasteries and churches with their adjacent lands which historically belonged to the Mother See, but were forcefully taken by the previous Soviet Regime. He acquired a day care, youth centre in Talin, under the spiritual guidance of the Diocese of Aragatsotn. The General Assembly of the Canadian Diocese elected Very Rev. Fr. Bagrat Galstanian as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada in May of 2003. Subsequently, on June 22 of the same year, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, elevated the Primate, to the rank of bishop, in the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, on the feast of Holy Etchmiadzin.

E1Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisyan (May 2013- May 2014)

His Eminence Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisian was born in 1955, in Yerevan, Republic of Armenia.

1970-1975, he studied Piano and Music at Musical-Pedagogical College of Yerevan, and then continued his musical education as a pianist at the Komitas Conservatory of Yerevan, graduating in 1980. He entered the Theological Academy of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1984. He was ordained a Deacon in 1986 and graduated from the Academy in 1987. He was ordained a celibate priest in 1988 and one year later he was granted the rank of Vardapet (Master of Divinity) after completing his thesis on the “Shepherd of Hermas”. At the same time he became the Vice-Dean of Theological Academy and lecturer of Patristics and Early Church History.

In 1991 His Holiness late Vasken I appointed Nathan Vardapet as the Locum Tenens of the newly organized Armenian Diocese of Ukraine. In 1994 he received the rank of Dzayragouyn Vardapet (Doctor of Divinity) for his thesis: “Petros Quture and his ‘Anthology of Theology’”.

In 1997 he was ordained Bishop by Late Catholicos Karekin I and was appointed as the first Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Ukraine. 1997-2000 member of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

In 2000 Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian was elected as the Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Great Britain and he took his new post on 1 October 2000 as the Pontifical Legate and Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain.

In 2010 Archbishop Nathan moved back to Holy Etchmiadzin and took the position of the Director of Publishing Department and Chairman of Publishing Council of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Since 2011 Archbishop Nathan is the President of Monastic Council of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisian has been very active in Ecumenical circles. He has participated in various Ecumenical and International Conferences and Assemblies. 2001-2010 – Co-Chairman of Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Forum in London. 2001-2007 – President of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United Kingdom. 2006-2010 – Co-President of “Churches Together in England”, London. Since 2006 Member of the Standing Commission on Faith & Order of the World Council of Churches. 2000 – Correspondent Member & Honorary Doctor of the International Personnel Academy of Ukraine. 2006 – Honorary Citizen of Bethlehem. Amongst the decorations he has received to date are the Order of “St Daniel of Moscow” from His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, in 1995 as well as the Order of Merit, from the President of Ukraine, in 2001.

In June 2013, by the Pontifical Order of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Eminence Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisian was appointed Locum Tenens of the Armenian Church Canadian Diocese with all the canonical rights of a Primate.

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