New Bishop Takes Charge of Catholic Armenian Flock in US

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Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — Bishop Mikael Mouradian, the new head of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of the US, is a well-traveled man.

Born and raised in Beirut, he has served the Armenian Catholic Church in Lebanon, Syria, Armenia and now the US.

One of the first changes he has made to the Armenian Catholic Church of the US and Canada, the name of which is officially Our Lady of Nareg, was to move it from New York City to Los Angeles, to the Sourp Grigor Lousavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale. The move was not entirely voluntary, as the New York church, which had been the home of the Armenian Catholic Church, St. Ann’s, was being sold. While Mouradian said the Catholic Church offered the Armenians the chance to have access to another church in the city, he and the other church leaders decided that due to the decline in the numbers of the faithful in New York and its growth on the West Coast, the church should relocate.

He said that the eparchy in New York in the 1980s, had 800 families, the majority of whom were immigrants from the Middle East. Now, there are only about 60 to 80 families there, whereas Los Angeles has 2,500-3,000 Catholic Armenian families.

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Mouradian was born to Armenian Catholic parents and attended the Armenian Sisters’ School in Zahlé. In 1973, the age of 12, he first realized that he wanted to be a priest. Upon graduating  from Our Lady of Bzommar Monastery and High School, he studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Armenian College in Rome. He also did a year of specialized train- ing as a youth pastor.

Mouradian was ordained a Catholic priest in October 1987.

It is a decision he has not regretted. “At 12, I had the feelings and faith of a 12-year-old.

But my feelings increased as the years went by, and I made my final decision at age 25,” he said.

Mouradian was ordained in Paris and has served the church around the world since then. He has had the following missionary roles: assistant rector of the seminary of Bzommar (1987-1988), assistant rector of the seminary of Aleppo (1988-1989), pastor of the Armenian Catholic church of Our Lady of the Universe in Damascus, assistant pastor of the Holy Cross parish in Zalka, Lebanon (1991), pastor of various Catholic communi- ties in the northern provinces of Armenia (1992-2001) and secretary general and executive director of Caritas-Armenia (1995- 2001.) In 2000, the Ministry of Culture and Science of Armenia granted him the title of honorary professor in the pedagogical faculty of Armenia.

In Armenia, Mouradian was based in Gumri. “When I arrived, we [at Caritas] had two people in the office, now we have 42,” he said. Now Caritas has chapters in Yerevan and near Lake Sevan, with a total of 84 people working in the country.

A good portion of his time was spent fundraising in Europe for the charity.

Religion is a part of Mouradian’s family; his sister, Haginta Mouradian, is a nun with the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. She is currently working with orphans in Dashir, Armenia.

Mouradian said that there are about 150,000 Armenian Catholics in Armenia, all the result of the migration of the residents of 37 Armenian villages in Western Armenia fleeing persecution in the wake of the Russo- Turkish war in the 1700s. These Western Armenia residents fled to Eastern Armenia, where many of their descendants still reside. In fact, he said, one of Armenia’s largest villages, Medzavan, with 1,700 families, is exclu- sively Catholic.

The Armenian Catholic Church is one of the five rites that form the Universal Catholic Church. The other four are Latin (Rome), Byzantine, Copt and Syriac.

The Mkhitarian Order, which has branches in Vienna and Venice, is under the aegis of the Roman pontiff.

The current leader of the Armenian Catholic Church is Nerses Bedros XIX, who is based in Beirut, in the Monastery of Bzommar, founded in 1749.

“My mission is to keep steady or establish the Armenian Catholic community,” he said. “We have nine parishes, three missions and five schools in the US and Canada.”

In addition to the US churches in Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Detroit, Los Angeles, Glendale and Little Falls, NJ, there is a church in Toronto, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and a successful Saturday school, which has 140 students, and a church and a school in Montreal, with 400 students.

The events taking place now in Syria are particularly painful for Mouradian and the Armenian Catholic Church , as that country has five large Catholic Churches.

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