On Monday, 21 February 2011, Catholicos Aram I of the See of Cilicia arrived Doha for a three-day visit during which he met Armenian, Lebanese and Qatari officials. He was accompanied by Lebanese MP Hagop Pakradounian, Dean of Seminary Bishop Shahe Panossian (recently appointed as Catholicosal Vicar of Kuwait and Arabian Gulf Countries) and Father Mesrob Sarkissian, his secretary.
Immediately after his arrival, Catholicos Aram was the guest of honor at a dinner reception held by Arsen Halajian, chairman of the Executive Council of the Armenian Community of Qatar.
On Wednesday, 23 February 2011, Catholicos Aram met with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. He described Qatar as a country of modernization and dialogue, referring to the Doha Agreement singed in 2008 between different Lebanese factions after lengthy negotiations in Qatar. The Emir highly valued the role of the Armenian community in Qatar and as a token of appreciation and commitment he donated a piece of land to built an Armenian church and center there.
Catholicos Aram lectured at the Georgetown University campus in Doha on the topic “The Response of Religions to Current Issues and Challenges.” According to His Holiness, interreligious dialogue should lead to cooperation among people. Globalization, which has brought people closer to one another, may teach peaceful coexistence. “After all, peace is at the heart of all religious life,” he concluded.
On Thursday, 24 February 2011, Catholicos Aram and MP Hagop Pakradounian had a meeting with Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar and the head of the Emir's court, during which they discussed the current developments in Lebanon. They also referred to the role of the Armenian community in Qatar and inter-religious dialogue.
Catholicos Aram was guest of honor of luncheon reception by Ambassador of Lebanon in Qatar. Two Lebanese ministers and several Ambassadors of Arab countries in Qatar also attended. Before departing from Doha, His Holinees attended a dinner hosted by Nazaret Najarian.
Several hundred of Armenians live in Qatar. They keep a weekly school on Saturdays (10am to 12pm), where about 50 children follow Armenian language lessons in premises provided by the Lebanese International School. The books of the Armenian school cost QR 120/- and each time the student goes to school he/she is charged QR 10/-. The payments cover the expenses of student prizes and outdoor activities such as traditional Easter picnic.
In Qatar two Holy Mass services are held annually (Christmas and Easter) with the participation of the Catholicosal Vicar based in Kuwait (until recently Archbishop Goriun Babian) and pastor of the Armenian Church in Sharjah Father Aram Deyirmendjian. Usually a space inside a hotel is rented for this purpose or the Coptic Church in Abu Hamour area is used.
Archbishop Goriun Babian's farewell event was held at the residence of. Arsen Halajian in Doha, on 13 January 2011.
Taline Arzoumanian (from Abu Dhabi, now in Doha) contributed to this article.
Photos from recent events organized by Qatari Armenians (Belot Tournament and Desert Safari, both in 2010).