The 50th ordination anniversary of a distinguished clergyman and longtime leader of the Armenian Church was marked with a special tribute in October.
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, was honored on the “golden anniversary” of his ordination, in a heartfelt ceremony and banquet organized by Holy Trinity Church of Cheltenham, PA.
More than 160 people arrived at the church hall for the event on Sunday, October 17, 2021, which went forward in compliance with local pandemic regulations.
The day began in the church sanctuary with the Divine Liturgy, celebrated by Archbishop Aykazian himself, with parish pastor Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan assisting, along with deacons, altar servers, and choir members of the parish.
A banquet followed, with the luncheon graciously hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Garo Garibian. In addition to faithful from the Philadelphia area, guests included Bryan Ardouny of the Armenian Assembly, with whom Archbishop Aykazian frequently collaborates; and Dr. Rachel Goshgarian (of Lafayette College) and Taleen Babayan (of the Armenian Assembly)—both former colleagues of the honoree at the Eastern Diocese.
Representing Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan were Diocesan Vicar Fr. Simeon Odabashian and the Diocese’s Director of Ministries Fr. Mesrob Parsamyan. Both honored Archbishop Vicken with words of praise for his work as Ecumenical Director of the Eastern Diocese.
Bishop Daniel’s letter of congratulations to his Brother in Christ was read to the crowd by Fr. Odabashian. “Through his intelligence, diligence, spirituality and warm personality, Vicken Srpazan has been a servant of incalculable value to our Diocese, our church, and the Armenian people in general,” wrote the Primate. “A true soldier of our Lord, he provides an edifying example of leadership for us all.”
He went on: “As the Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director, Vicken Srpazan has worked for decades among the world’s major interfaith and Christian ecumenical groups…. On countless occasions, his influence has been the major force behind worldwide expressions of ecumenical support for Armenian causes, including Genocide recognition, the preservation of Armenian monuments and, most urgently, the statements of solidarity with Armenia and Artsakh that emerged during last year’s bitter war period.”
Cheltenham pastor Fr. Gevorgyan offered his reflections on the humble nature of the honoree, relating how Archbishop Aykazian had chosen to serve as a deacon during a recent badarak at St. Mary Church in Washington, D.C., to commemorate in a very personal way the 50th year since his ordination.
He added: “Our Eastern Diocese is fortunate to have someone of his stature represent the Armenian Church in the global faith community for the past generation.”
As a special way to honor the milestone, the Cheltenham parish presented Archbishop Aykazian with a beautiful oil painting of his own portrait.
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian is the Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), in which capacity he has served since January of 2000.
Born in Siirt, Turkey, in 1951, he moved to Jerusalem as a young man to study at the city’s Armenian Patriarchate. There he was ordained a deacon in 1968 and a celibate priest in 1971. In 1992, His Holiness Vasken I, the late Catholicos of All Armenians, ordained him a bishop at Holy Etchmiadzin, the Mother See of the worldwide Armenian Church.
In a ministry that has taken him around the world, he has served the Armenian Church in diverse roles including tenures as primate of the Diocese of Switzerland (1992-96), and as director of the Fund for Armenian Relief’s office in the Republic of Armenia (1997-99).
In 2007, he was elected as president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and served his term from 2008 through 2009. He was the first Oriental Orthodox clergyman to serve as president of America’s leading ecumenical organization. He currently sits on the executive board of the NCC as well as on the board of the World Council of Churches, where his involvement has been extensive and continuous since 1985.
Today, Archbishop Aykazian is recognized around the globe as among the distinguished and influential figures in the ecumenical field.