21 November 2005

Armenian Catholicos to visit Kuwait to cement relations

KUWAIT, 21 November 2005, Kuwait Times News (www.kuwaittimes.net)
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

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.

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