YEREVAN/ISTANBUL (Combined Sources) – On the morning of Thursday, November 19, Archbishop Sebouh Chouldjian, Primate of the Diocese of Gougark, Armenia, died of Covid-19. The Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin released the following statement: “The death of His Holiness is a great loss for the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Diocese of Gougark and its faithful children.”
Archbishop Chouldjian, who was born in Malatya, Turkey, in 1959, received his primary education at Istanbul’s Nersesian School. His family resettled in Armenia in 1969, where the future archbishop grew up in Gyumri. As a native of Turkey and former Istanbul resident, the archbishop had a special place in the hearts of Istanbul Armenians. He became the Primate of Gougark, a mostly rural area in northern Armenia which includes the city of Vanadzor and the region of Lori.
According to the Istanbul-Armenian newspaper Nor Marmara, “The archbishop, in the days of the Artsakh war, was always at the forefront of service, and tried to comfort families who had lost their sons, presiding over the funerals of martyred soldiers. It was in those days that he contracted the coronavirus and was transferred to a hospital.”
In a second article, Nor Marmara wrote that the archbishop “completed the funeral rites of over 90 soldiers in 10-15 days. It was in those days that in the wake of untold emotion he became sick and contracted coronavirus, but continued his service until the point where his strength was gone. With a high fever he was transferred to the hospital.” The newspaper continued, “The faithful will remember him as a right-minded clergyman, for whom uprightness was the utmost virtue.” It added that in his will, Chouldjian asked that donations be made in lieu of flowers to Camp Dzidzernag, and that if there were to be any memorial meal or hokejash, it be specially for the children of Camp Dzidzernag.
The Istanbul-Armenian newspaper Agos wrote the following: “The Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin related the sad news, which caused deep grief for the multitudes of people that loved him. Archbishop Sebouh Chouldjian, especially in Vanadzor where he held office, carried out fruitful labor, above all in organizing a children’s camp [Camp Dzidzernag], which housed hundreds of kids in the summer months, ensuring them happy times along with patriotic and spiritual education.
“Abp. Sebouh Chouldjian put forth his candidacy in the Istanbul Patriarchal elections [in 2010], but the dark circles that forbade Abp. Karekin Bekjian’s locum-tenancy also, by treachery, blocked Chouldjian Srpazan’s candidacy.”