Today is Vazgen I birthday
"In the way of looking for God, I found St. Etchmiadzin and my homeland, and bowed to the fate."
Vazgen I was born on September 20, 1908 in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, whose name was Levon-Garapet Baljian. During the First World War, the Paljyans' family was established in Odessa where the future Catholicos Vazgen I received his primary education. After returning to Romania, he studied at the Misakian-Cesimian National School in Bucharest, after graduating from the Bucharest Higher Trade School in 1924. Already in 1936, the future Catholicosate graduated from the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy of Bucharest State University, and in 1937, he received a Teacher-Pedagogue Certificate from the Department of Practical Pedagogy.
Since the 1930's, he has been active in the Romanian-Armenian community, mainly in the national-public and then in the ecclesiastical spheres. He talked about the problems in his articled in Paris in the "Martkots" newspaper. It was followed by the “Herk” magazine founded by him, with its twelve numbers.
Garabet-Levon Baljian was engaged in teaching activity. In 1929-43, he taught at the Armenian schools in Bucharest, during the World War II, was involved in the Aid Committee of Armenian hostages in Romania.
1943 was of a decisive significance for Garabedt-Levon Baljian. In September, the Romanian-Armenian Diocesan Council made a decision and sent the future Catholicos to Athens. In St. Garabed Church, he was ordained to be a celibate priest, after which he returned to Bulgaria and presented his first liturgy to Church of the Holy Archangels. Two months later, he was elected the vicar of the Armenian Diocese of Romania, then the diocese leader. On May 23, 1948, St. Catholicos of All Armenians Kevork VI Cheorektjian consecrates him to the Supreme Archimandrite in the Mother Cathedral of Echmiadzin, soon after, in May 1951, the bishop. On December 31, 1954, he assumed the duties of the leader of the Armenian diocese of Bulgaria. And finally, in 1955, he was elected the 130th Catholicos of All Armenians, accepting the name Vazgen First.
"The essence of religious feelings is not a national feeling in its depth. But in his historical formation, development and manifestation, yes, he has received special forms of mentality of the people, that is, the people's mental and historical development marks.”
From the very first day, Catholicos of All Armenians Vazgen I has been engaged in consolidating activities, has brought his great contribution to the strengthening of the homeland-Diaspora relations, has done a great deal of church-building works, has authored a philosophical and publicist character, as well as Armenian studies, has his contribution to the ecumenical movement and expansion of relations between the churches. Vazgen I made about 30 patriarchal visits to the Dioceses of the Armenian Church in order to boost interfaith relations. He renovated Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, St. Hripsime, St. Gayane, St. Shoghakat Monasteries, as well as Geghardavank Monastery of Khor Virap, St. St. Mesrop Mashtots, St. Sarkis, St. Zoravor, St. Hovhannes, churches of Baku, Rostov-on-Don, Armavir and Moscow. With the blessing of his right, a mausoleum dedicated to Khrimyan Hairik and others were built near the monastery.
Thanks to His Holiness the two Gospels, which were signed by the names of His Holiness, were saved and handed over to Matenadaran, "The Gospel of Zeytun" and "The Gospel of Malatya" decorated by Toros Roslin, historian Tovma Artsruni "History of Artsruni House" the only copy of the work and many more valuable works.
Vazgen I Catholicos participated in global conferences on religious leaders, for peace, disarmament and establishment of fair relations between peoples held in Moscow, Berlin and Helsinki. On February 25, 1988 he appealed to M. Gorbachev in reuniting Artsakh to Armenia, in 1989 re-affirmed the Artsakh Diocese, reconfirmed the Syunik and Gugark Dioceses, and made a great contribution to all the stages of the Artsakh movement and to the creation of the "Hayastan" Pan-Armenian Fund.
His Holiness was awarded the Order of the Cross of the Romanian Republic in 1952, ten years later, the Medal of Frederick Joliot-Curie, in 1968, the Gold Medal of the Soviet union on World Protection, the Order of Honour, and in 1978 he received the Order of Friendship of Peoples. In 1991 he was an Honorary Member of NAS RA.
Taking into consideration the great contribution and dedication made by the Catholicos of All Armenians Vazgen I on the way of restoring the Armenian statehood, on July 28, 1994 the President of the Republic of Armenia honored Vazgen I as the national hero of Armenia and the "Homeland Services Medal”.
His Holiness passed away on August 18, 1994 in Etchmiadzin.
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