WATERTOWN — Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Pontifical Legate of the Armenian Church in Western Europe and Representative of the Armenian Church to the Holy See, traveled to Turkey to participate in an event commemorating the 30e anniversary of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) and the 20e anniversary of Armenia’s participation in this body on 9 June. He took advantage of the trip to also meet the Turkish Foreign Minister to plan the commemoration of the 850e birthday of Saint Nerses Shnorhali [“the Graceful”] in Hromgla.
Archbishop Barsamian said he was invited by Ambassador Sahak Sargsyan, Permanent Representative of Armenia to BSEC, to attend the event, which was held on a large scale at Cemal Resit Rey Concert Istanbul Hall. He said around 1,000 people attended, including ambassadors, consul generals and other consulate officials as well as the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Sahak II Mashalian and other high-ranking clergy. Amb. Sargsyan spoke, as did BSEC Secretary General Ambassador Lazar Comanescu of Romania. The Komitas String Quartet came from Armenia to perform and included some pieces by the eponymous composer Komitas Vartabed.
Apparently, it was one of the first occasions for the Armenian community in Istanbul to gather on this scale since the start of the Covid pandemic, so people were happy, the archbishop recounted. Barsamian also participated in a dinner the day before, June 8, at St. Vartanants Church in Feriköy (a district of Shishli in Istanbul) in honor of the members of the Komitas Quartet who had just arrived, as well as the committee organization of the event. , Patriarch Mashalian and Archbishop Aram Ateshian.
Earlier on June 9, he traveled to Ankara with Patriarch Mashalian to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss the celebration of the 850e birthday of St. Nerses IV Shnorhali next year in the historic town of Hromgla, Cilicia (now called Rumkale in Turkish), situated on a promontory overlooking the Euphrates. St. Nerses served there as Catholicos.
Archbishop Barsamian explained that a few months ago he learned that UNESCO would honor Saint Nerses along with other personalities from around the world. He contacted the Vatican after receiving the blessing of Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II to see if a celebration of the 850 of Saint Nersese anniversary could take place in the Vatican under the presidency of the Pope and the Catholicos of All Armenians. They both accepted, so this event will most likely take place in the fall of 2023, with an ecumenical service at St. Peter’s Basilica. Barsamian requested that St. Nerses be accepted into the Roman calendar, and this is being worked on. There may also be a concert in the Sistine Chapel featuring the hymns of St. Nerses Shnorhali, an exhibition in the Vatican Museum, and a two-day conference organized by the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Another conference will take place in Armenia. “All these events, especially in the Vatican,” Bishop Barsamian said, “will give the opportunity to introduce Saint Nerses Shnorhali to the world.”
In this context, Bishop Barsamian said someone had suggested that a pilgrimage be organized to Hromgla, where a celebration could take place and even the divine liturgy could be celebrated. After consulting Patriarch Sahag II, who agreed with the idea, the two decided to meet with the Turkish Foreign Minister in Ankara to see if it would also be acceptable with the Turkish government. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu was very welcoming and supportive of the idea, Barsamian said.