Armenian Catholicos to visit Kuwait to cement relations

KUWAIT, 21 November 2005, Kuwait Times News ( By Ben Garcia:

Extremely delighted for the freedom of religion they have been experiencing here, Dr Goriun Babian, head of the Armenian Prelacy of Kuwait and the Arabian countries, announced yesterday the upcoming visit of Aram I Catholicos, the head of around 370 Armenian churches worldwide. The expected visit of the Catholicos (equivalent to the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church) is his first pontifical trip to the country after assuming post as Catholicos in 1995.

“Part of the freedom of religion we are enjoying here is receiving the highest authority from our church. We want to announce that on Wednesday the Catholicos will be arriving in Kuwait for a seven-day visit. The Catholicos will be enjoying diplomatic treatment when he arrives here for a landmark visit,” Babian stated at a press conference held at its headquarters in Salmiya.

Dr Babian is the representative of the Catholicos to Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf region since 2001. He graduated from Oxford University with a doctoral degree and has been assigned to different countries around the world to represent the Armenian churches.

According to Babian, Aram I Catholicos is famous for many as a mentor and great 'bridge' to East and West relations as he has been very active in brokering Christians and Muslim religious dialogue since 1972. The Catholicos is set to meet several Kuwaiti officials and convene leaders of various organisations here. He is also scheduled to preside over ecumenical prayers to take place at the Holy Family Cathedral in Kuwait City.

Additionally, he is set to celebrate here along with Armenian community 10th anniversary of his enthronement. “If possible, we would also organise a lecture on Christian and Muslim dialogue in one of the state universities here. The Catholicos expresses willingness to give lecture on that issue, so Inshallah, our request will be granted.”

Asked what challenges Armenian church is facing here, Babian clearly but carefully noted, “We have unquestionable religious freedom here in Kuwait and that it is being enjoyed by many of major religious denominations, we are very thankful and very grateful to Kuwaiti government in that aspects but we are also looking forward to one day, they will allow us to own a piece of land to build our churches. I am sure the government is considering that. We are also looking forward to raising our crosses atop our churches. I am sure the Kuwaiti government is doing all they can to help us also on doing that.”

Born in 1947 in Beirut, the Catholicos has been very active in the inter-faith dialogue since assuming position as Catholicos in 1972. He served in this position until 1995, and represented the church at major theological and ecumenical conferences, assemblies and consultations.

Catholicos is also a founding member of the Oriental Orthodox-Easter Orthodox Theological Dialogue, Oriental Orthodox Reformed Dialogue and the Orthodox-Evangelical Dialogues. He is an honorary member of Pro Oriente and an honorary president of the Museum of the World Religious Foundation. He is also instrumental in creating the standing committee of the three heads, (Coptic, Syrian and Armenian) of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East.

Catholicos was ordained as a celibate priest in 1968 and obtained the title of Vartabed (Doctor of the Armenian Church) in 1970. In 1995, he was elected Chatolicos (the head of the Church) by the electoral assembly of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia.