LOS ANGELES — The Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic church has in formed the passing of former Primate Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, he was 92 years old.
Archbishop Hovsepian (baptismal name Hovsep) was born on 11 June 1930 in Beirut, Lebanon. He received his primary education at the Armenian Mesrobian School in Lebanon. Upon his graduation, he entered the Theological Seminary of Antelias.
On June 24, 1951, he was ordained as a celibate priest by Bishop Derenik Poladyan, and given the priestly name of Vatche. Upon his ordination, he was appointed to serve as the Dean Assistant and Instructor at the Seminary.
In 1953, he went to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
In 1956, Father Vatche was assigned as the spiritual pastor of the Holy Cross Armenian Church of Union City, New Jersey (USA). Here he continued his studies at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary at Rutgers and received a Bachelor’s of Divinity Degree.
In 1967, Father Vatche was appointed to serve as the Vicar General of the Diocese of Canada; organized new parishes, facilitated the implementation of a new constitution for the Canadian Diocese, bringing it into compliance with Canadian requirements.
In October 1967, he was consecrated as a Bishop by the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Vasken I of Blessed Memory.
In March 1971, His Eminence was elected as the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America. During his tenure in the Western Diocese, he established thirteen new parishes and ordained eight priests. In addition, he elevated and inducted into the Ecclesiastical ranks of Acolyte, sub-Deacon and Deacon, hundreds of youth within the Diocese.
In 1976, upon the commemoration of his 25th Anniversary of ordination, Bishop Vatche was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Vasken I.
In April 1985, in commemoration of the Seventieth (70th) Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks, His Eminence was invited to address both House of the State Legislature of the United States.
In 1986, he served as a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Church.
In 1988, after the disastrous earthquake in Armenia, Bishop Vatche established an Orphan’s Fund in the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America. In addition, under his auspices, the Western Diocese re-built the St. Gregory the Illuminator High School in Stepanavan, Armenia. During his tenure, St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian Armenian School was founded in Pasadena, California, which serves the Armenian youth within the Los Angeles area.
In 1994, the Diocesan Headquarters were demolished because of the Northridge Earthquake and temporarily moved to the St. Gregory Armenian Church in Pasadena.
In May 1997, through the Primate’s initiative, a new territory for the Diocesan Headquarters was purchased and a new spacious Western Diocesan Headquarters were built in Burbank, California.
The Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin I appointed Archbishop Vatche to serve as the Chairman of the Constitution Committee of the Armenian Church. He was charged with drafting a constitution which was completed in 2002 and submitted for review and approval.
Upon the demise of His Holiness Vazken I, the late Catholicos of All Armenians; Archbishop Vatche was asked by the Locum Tenens, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, to organize the National Ecclesiastical Assembly in Etchmiadzin for the election of the new Catholicos; which he carefully planned and organized.
In 2003, after 32 years of devout, tireless and reverential service, Archbishop Vatche retired as Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America.
Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian was a rare and inspiring human being. I had the honor and privilege to meet him and he touched all my senses. Even though I am of a different faith I could sense his powerful immersive spirituality.
Condolences from the Neustein family