Aram I

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His Holiness Catholicos
Aram I
Catholicos of Cilicia
Catholicos Aram I.jpg
Native name Արամ Ա. Քեշիշեան
Church Armenian Apostolic Church
See Holy See of Cilicia
Appointed 1995
Predecessor Karekin II (later Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians)
Personal details
Birth name Pedros Keshishian
Born 1947
Denomination Armenian Apostolic

Aram I Keshishian (Armenian: Արամ Ա. Քեշիշեան ) is the head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia and has been Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church since 1995. He resides in Antelias, Lebanon.


Education[edit]

Born in 1947, in Beirut, Lebanon as Bedros Keshishian, after studying at the Armenian Theological Seminary, Antelias, Lebanon and the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, Geneva, Switzerland, he received his M.Div. from the Near East School of Theology, his S.T.M. jointly from the American University of Beirut and Near East School of Theology, and his PhD from Fordham University in New York. Aram I also holds several honorary degrees. His major areas of specialization are philosophy, systematic theology, and Near Eastern church history.

Church Ministry[edit]

Catholicos Aram I was ordained as a celibate priest in 1968 and obtained the title of Vartabed (Doctor of the Armenian Church) in 1970. In 1979, after serving for one year as Locum Tenens, he was elected Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Community in Lebanon; the next year he received episcopal ordination. In June 1995 he was elected Catholicos (the Head of the Church) by the Electoral Assembly of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia (35 clergy and 115 lay representatives), and was consecrated one week later.

Called to serve as Primate of the Armenian Community of Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War, Aram I reorganized parishes and schools, restructured and reactivated church-related institutions, and renewed community leadership.

As Head of Church, he:

  • reorganized and revitalized the work of the Church, particularly in the areas of theological formation, Christian education, publications, communications, cultural activities, youth, justice and peace, and human rights.
  • realized several construction projects in the Catholicosate, such as: the 'Cilicia' Museum, Center of Archives and Manuscripts, buildings for bishops and monks, a guesthouse and offices, a center for youth and university students, and in Beirut apartments for low-income families, etc.
  • paid pontifical visits to all the dioceses of the Catholicosate in the Middle East, Europe, and North and South America, and brought a new dynamism to the relationship between these worldwide dioceses and the administrative center of the Church, the Catholicosate, in Lebanon;
  • emphasized the Church’s outreach through social service (orphanage, old peoples’ home, blind peoples’ home, and school for the disabled);
  • strengthened ecumenical relations and collaboration, by establishing a special department for this work, developing close personal relations with world church leaders, organizing important ecumenical meetings and events, and chairing and lecturing at international conferences and events in different regions;
  • In the context of international relations, he met with a number of heads of states, political and religious leaders, and representatives of international organizations.

Academic and Intellectual Achievements[edit]

For many years Aram I has regularly lectured on armenological, theological, and ecumenical subjects at the Armenian Seminary and Haigazian University in Beirut. He has also given numerous public lectures in various universities, academic and cultural centers, and at public events and international gatherings.

In addition to his numerous articles and reviews in Armenian, English and French (some of which have been translated into Arabic, German, Spanish and Swedish), Aram I has authored the following books:

  • Nerses the Gracious: Theologian and Ecumenist, 1974, Beirut (in Armenian).
  • The Witness of the Armenian Church in a Diaspora Situation, 1978, New York (in English), two editions.
  • The True Image of the Armenian Church, 1979, Antelias (in Armenian).
  • With the Will of Re-Building, 1983, Beirut (in Armenian).
  • With the People, 1989, Beirut (in Armenian).
  • Conciliar Fellowship: a Common Goal, 1991, Geneva (in English), two editions.
  • Orthodox Perspectives on Mission, 1992, Oxford (in English), two editions.
  • Towards the 1700th Anniversary of the Christianization of Armenia, 1996, Antelias (in Armenian).
  • The Challenge to be a Church in a Changing World, 1997, New York (in English), two editions.
  • Jesus Christ: the Son of God-the Son of Man, 1999, Antelias (in Armenian), two editions.
  • Church, Nation and Homeland, 1999, Antelias (in Armenian), two editions.
  • In search of Ecumenical Vision, 2000, Antelias (in English), three editions.
  • L’eglise Face aux Grands défis, 2000, Antelias (in French), two editions.
  • The Armenian Church Beyond the 1700th Anniversary, 2002, Antelias (in English), three editions.
  • The Mission of Faith, 2003, Antelias (in Armenian), two editions.
  • Justice, Paix, Réconciliation, 2003, Antelias (in French).
  • The Christian Witness at the Crossroads in the Middle East, 2004, Antelias (in English), three editions.
  • Der Zor: A National Sanctuary, 2005, Antelias (in Armenian).
  • The Dignity of Serving, 2005, Antelias (in Armenian).
  • For a Church Beyond its Walls, 2006, Antelias (in English).
  • Pour un Monde Transformé, 2006, Antelias (in French).
  • Dialogue with Youth Montreal, 2009 (in English and French).
  • Enriching Life with values, Antelias, 2009 (in Armenian).
  • St. Nerses the Gracious and Church Unity, Antelias, 2010 (in English).
  • A Journey of Faith, Hope and Vision, Antelias, 2011 (in English).
  • Taking the Church to the People, Antelias, 2011 (in English).
  • Issues and Perspectives, Antelias, 2013 (in English).

Ecumenical Engagement[edit]

Aram I was appointed in 1972 as the Catholicosate’s representative for ecumenical relations and he served in this position until 1995. He has played a major role in the worldwide ecumenical movement:

  • He was a founding member of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), in 1974. From the beginning he has served on the Council's Executive Committee and played a leading role in the major initiatives of the Council.
  • As delegate of his church, he attended the Nairobi (1975), Vancouver (1983), Canberra (1991), Harare (1998) and Porto Alegre (2006) Assemblies of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and several international conferences.
  • In 1975, he was elected as a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC, and in 1983 as a member of its Standing Committee. At the Vancouver Assembly (1983), he was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the WCC.
  • At the Canberra Assembly (1991), he was elected Moderator of the Central and Executive Committees of the WCC, the highest position of this global fellowship of churches, which comprises more than 350 churches from different confessions, cultures, nations and regions. He is the first Orthodox and the youngest person to be elected to the position of Moderator. After serving as Moderator for seven years, he was unanimously re-elected at the Harare Assembly (1998). His re-election was unprecedented in the history of the WCC.
  • Catholicos Aram I is a founding member of the Oriental Orthodox-Eastern Orthodox Theological Dialogue, Oriental Orthodox-Reformed Theological Dialogue, and the Orthodox-Evangelical Dialogue. He has played an important role in initiation of Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic and Oriental Orthodox-Lutheran Theological Dialogues. He is an honorary member of Pro Oriente.
  • He was instrumental in creating, in 1996, the fellowship of the Three Heads (Coptic, Syrian, Armenian) of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East.
  • He is a president of the Middle East Council of Churches since November 2007.

Inter-Religious Dialogue[edit]

As a strong supporter of inter-religious relations, dialogue and co-operation, Aram I has played a significant part in promoting common values, mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence among religions. In this context he:

  • worked hard as Primate to create tolerance and build mutual confidence between Christian and Muslim communities during the most critical times of Lebanese Civil War.
  • made frequent reference in his writings and public interventions to the vital importance of dialogue and collaboration among the living faiths of the world.
  • initiated a number of inter-religious dialogues and took active part in important inter-religious meetings on regional and international levels.
  • played an instrumental role in re-organizing the Christian-Muslim Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches, and in preparing the International Inter-religious Conference organized by the World Council of Churches (June 2005).
  • organized in Antelias a high level meeting of the representatives of religions of Asia and the Middle East.
  • gave lectures at inter-religious meetings, universities, and public events in different parts of the world.
  • He is an honorary President of the World Religions Museum Foundation, and the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
  • brought a significant contribution as key note speaker and moderator to the G8 Inter-Religious Summits.

In 2000, he indicated that he had no problem with the substance of Dominus Iesus, the Holy Office's document on relativism, but he faulted it for its unecumenical language.[1]

The Catholicos of Indian Orthodox Church, Baselios Thoma Didymos I confirred Aram I with the ‘Order of St. Thomas’ on February 27, 2010 at Kolenchery. ‘Order of St.Thomas’ is the most presigious honor at the Indian Orthodox Church. [2]

Commitment to Peace with Justice[edit]

As a result of his strong commitment to peace with justice, and human rights, he:

  • became a strong voice for mutual understanding among religions, cultures and civilizations.
  • organized regional and international seminars and conferences at the Catholicosate, in Antelias.
  • gave public lectures to university students, visiting academic, religious and NGO groups.

With his vision and commitment and with his hard work, Aram I has made the Catholicosate of Cilicia of the Armenian Church “a living center of reflection, dialogue and action”.

The CV of Aram I appears in Who's Who in the World, in the International Directory of Distinguished Leaders and in many other regional and international directories, dictionaries and publications.

References[edit]

See also[edit]

Preceded by
Karekin II
Catholicoi of the Holy See of Cilicia
1995–present
Incumbent