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Knights of Vartan Declare Opposition to Sale or Lease of Diocesan Complex

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 Historical documents reflect the crucial involvement of the Knights of Vartan in the realization of this Cathedral and Diocesan project, which is also reflected in the Cathedral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.

Respectfully,

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

St. Vartan Cathedral in New York City.

by Aram Arkun
Guest Contributor

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.

ACYOA Seniors Hold Chapter Workshop in Boca Raton

By Arsen Yelegen
FLArmenians Guest Contributor

From January 19 to 21, 47 young adults from 18 parishes across the Eastern Diocese gathered at St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL for the annual ACYOA Seniors Chapter Workshop. Organized by the ACYOA Central Council, the weekend’s theme was “Stewardship: Time, Talent, and Treasure.”

Participants shared their ACYOA experiences and brainstormed how they can utilize their time, talents, and treasures to strengthen their local chapters. The Rev. Fr. Paren Galstyan, pastor of St. David Church, served as the weekend’s chaplain. The Rev. Fr. Vartan Joulfayan, pastor of St. Mary Church in Hollywood, FL was also present for several sessions throughout the weekend.

The workshop began on Friday evening with a welcome by the ACYOA Central Council, and the participants got to know each other through icebreakers and a group activity. The evening concluded with a vespers service led by Fr. Paren.

Saturday began with a team building activity which involved various groups working together to create the tallest freestanding structure using only newspaper and masking tape. Participants were blindfolded, forced to use one hand, had their legs tied together, and had their mouths taped shut to make the activity more difficult. This activity emphasized teamwork and recognizing the special strengths and talents that each participant brings to the table.

Following this activity, Central Council members led a Bible Study from 1 Corinthians which spoke about stewardship and recognizing our individual talents and gifts.

Afterwards, Central Council members gave a presentation of what it means to be a steward and the importance of church dues, time commitment, and mentoring younger ACYOA members. Artak Apyan, from St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL, gave a presentation about the importance of stewardship and the role it has played in his life in the church.

Participants then split up into groups of two and had 60 seconds each to talk about themselves, followed by another 20 minutes to get better acquainted with each other. At the end of the session, participants were asked to describe what role they think their partner would be great at in their chapter based on the skills and abilities they shared earlier.

After lunch, ACYOA members made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Boca Helping Hands as part of a service project. Participants also signed a card for Rev. Fr. Shnork Souin, pastor of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church, who is currently in a rehabilitation center and awaiting a heart transplant.

Central Council members discussed the mission of the ACYOA, as well as the Five Circles of the Cross. Participants then split into groups and discussed various strengths and weaknesses they have observed in their local ACYOA chapters and parishes.

“There was a lot to be learned from the other chapters, big or small. Little tips go a long way. I was able to take home ideas I have never thought of and hope to make the coming years a great success,” said Brian Sarafyan of the Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, NY.

The last session of the day involved goal setting. Participants watched a TED Talk video about how great leaders inspire action, and they were then split into groups based on their Central Council liaisons. Participants identified leadership qualities of members in their own local ACYOA chapters and started planning events their chapters could host.

On Sunday, the group participated in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. David Church before heading back to their home parishes. “This was my first Chapter Workshop so I didn’t know what to expect. I enjoyed the teambuilding activities that helped us learn about ourselves and how we can best serve the Church and the Armenian community,” said Elen Balasanyan of St. Sarkis Church in Charlotte, NC.

“It was great to get insight from peers through reflections and learn new problem-solving techniques that we can use to strengthen our own chapters.”