NEW YORK, NY – In the wake of President Biden’s inauguration as America’s 46th chief executive, Armenian Church of America (Eastern) Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan sent a letter to the White House conveying pressing concerns of the Armenian-American community.
Among these concerns, he said, are ensuring security for Armenia and Armenian communities in the Middle East; the health of our homeland in the aftermath of war and in the midst of the ongoing pandemic crisis; official recognition for Artsakh; and protection of Armenian and Christian heritage sites.
His appeal concludes: “Mr. President, as a man of faith yourself, I know that these concerns of an ancient Apostolic Christian nation are deeply meaningful to you. Please know that in pursuing the above objectives, the Armenian Church of America and its people are eager to support and assist your administration in any way we can.”
Read Bishop Daniel’s letter to President Biden below:
January 27, 2021
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
Dear President Biden:
On behalf of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America, I wish to extend my warm congratulations to you, on your inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America.
Today, the Armenian-American citizens of the United States look forward to your national leadership with great anticipation. In your tenure as a senator, Vice President, and public servant, we have admired your strong advocacy for official U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and your unwavering support for the Republic of Armenia.
Security—of Armenia and of Armenian communities throughout the Middle East—remains a pressing concern among our people in America. We are heartened by your determination to promote a balanced international order, respectful of human rights, and strengthened by intercultural dialogue.
In this time of worldwide affliction, the good people of Armenia bore unique hardships. They were subjected not only to the pandemic, but also to a vicious, unprovoked war by their neighboring country of Azerbaijan. The outcome of the war has placed new burdens on the Armenian people. So it was heartening, in these early days of the Biden administration, to hear incoming Secretary of State Blinken strongly endorse the importance of the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) peace process, and confirm your pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Hand-in-hand with these matters is the issue of official recognition for Artsakh, and the protection of Armenian religious monuments in that region, as well as the preservation of Armenian and other Christian heritage sites in Turkey.
Mr. President, as a man of faith yourself, I know that these concerns of an ancient Apostolic Christian nation are deeply meaningful to you. Please know that in pursuing the above objectives, the Armenian Church of America and its people are eager to support and assist your administration in any way we can.
I should add that we would be honored to welcome you to the institutional center of America’s Armenian community: St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York City, located a few blocks away from the United Nations. Please be assured that the cathedral will always be a spiritual home for you and your loved ones.
It is my prayer that you will remain healthy and safe in these still-trying times, President Biden. I pray that under your leadership the American people—and the world that looks to us for guidance—will emerge from this painful period, and progress towards greater peace and prosperity. And I pray that God will always keep you and our country under his watchful gaze. May God be with you, and with all of our fellow citizens.
With my prayers,
The following letter was sent by Knights of Vartan Avak Sbarabed Dr. Gary Zamanigian and Avak Tbrabed Deacon Richard Norsigian to Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikian, Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Eastern.
Dear Fr. Daniel:
The Brothers of the Knights of Vartan are concerned and strongly oppose the recent efforts to either sell and/or lease all or part of the property of St. Vartan Cathedral Complex in New York City.
Even as a non-church affiliated Christian organization, the Knights of Vartan recognizes the importance of the St. Vartan Cathedral Complex in New York City and is dedicated to its preservation. This complex is recognized both nationally and internationally as a symbol of the survival of all Armenians as Christians, regardless of what church, political affiliation, or even religious persuasion one may or may not have as an Armenian. It is as well of national significance to all Armenians regardless of where they geographically live in the United States.
This holy edifice and its campus is the legacy of both our Genocide Saints who gave their lives and the Genocide survivors. Upon its completion in 1968, it represented, and after 50 years, still represents, the fulfillment of a broad collection of the drams and aspirations of our forefathers. Historical documents reflect the crucial involvement of the Knights of Vartan in the realization of this Cathedral and Diocesan project, which is also reflected in the Cathedral being named after our namesake, Vartan Mamigonian. This property also needs to be preserved as possible the most valuable singe asset of Armenians in the world.
On July 13, 2018, at its annual convocation, the Knights of Vartan, with delegates from throughout the United States and from all churches and political persuasions, unanimously approved the sending of this letter as its formal opposition and objections to the sale and/or lease of any portion of either the land or buildings of the St. Vartan Cathedral and Diocesan Complex in New York City.
Dr. Gary Zamanigian and Deacon Richard Norsigian
For more information about the Diocesan Council’s undisclosed plans to sell or lease St. Vartan Cathedral Diocesan complex property, please see the latest coverage originally published by the Armenian Mirror-Spectator:
“Diaspora Must do Better in Keeping Institutions,” by Taleen Babayan, July 24, 2018.
“Extraordinary Petition Requests Special Session of Eastern Diocesan Assembly on Cathedral Complex Proposal,” by Aram Arkun, July 28, 2018.
Extraordinary Petition Requests Special Session of Eastern Diocesan Assembly on Cathedral Complex Proposal
by Aram Arkun
NEW YORK, NY — A written petition to request a special session of the assembly of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was submitted on July 22 with enough Diocesan delegates’ signatures to meet the requirement of the Diocesan bylaws. The request is for the special session prior to September 22, 2018, and prior to the execution of any agreements or commitments, to review a proposal concerning the sale or conveyance of interests of the Diocesan complex in New York City.
A copy of the petition was printed in the June 30 issue of the Mirror-Spectator.
This is apparently the first time in the history of the Diocese that such a request has been made and indicates the extraordinary attention this issue has been gathering. In fact, the Armenian Mirror-Spectator has seldom received as many letters, emails and phone calls about any other issue in recent memory.
The original proposal, which was about “monetizing the value of the air rights of the cathedral complex,” according to James Kalustian, the chairman of the council of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, was presented at the Diocesan Assembly on May 3, 2018. Members of the Diocesan community reacted almost immediately and asked that the broader community have input in whatever decision was to be reached (e.g. Hirant Gulian’s “Community Input Needed Before Deciding Fate of Diocesan Complex,” Mirror-Spectator June 2). Various interpretations of the proposal, which has not been made public, spread throughout the community, including that part of the Diocesan land as well as air rights were being sold, and some even feared the ultimate sale of the complex.
Organizations such as the Knights of Vartan, involved in the development of St. Vartan Cathedral more than 50 years ago, recently weighed in the controversy and objected to any sale or lease of any part of the Diocesan complex. Questions have been raised by others about the overall state of Diocesan finances which has led to the present situation.
The Diocese has not officially issued any circular or report to the public about this issue up until the present. Unofficially the word was that a fact sheet or explanatory article would be released to dispel misunderstandings.
Diocesan officials contacted via email by the Mirror–Spectator to verify their receipt of the petition with signatures or comment on the situation did not respond. Officials at the Diocese contacted by phone and email during the past two months with regards to this issue have declined to make any public statements.
The Mirror-Spectator has seen a copy of the set of signatures and the original email sent to Diocesan officials. Among the signatories are many Diocesan priests.
The proposal for taking advantage of the value of the Diocesan property is not the first such attempt, as a number of differing proposals have been made since the 1980s.
This article originally appeared in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator and is reprinted with the expressed written consent of the author.