On July 5, 2014, the reopening ceremony of the Old Pontifical Residence took place at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, presided over by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The renovations to the historic building were made possible by a generous donation from AGBU president Mr. Berge Setrakian and Mrs. Vera Setrakian. Present at the opening ceremony were Hasmik Boghosian, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia; Armen Muradian, Minister of Healthcare of the Republic of Armenia; Arthur Nazarian, Minister of Energy of Lebanon; members of the Brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; members of the Setrakian and Nazarian families; representatives of educational and cultural organizations; as well as a large crowd of guests and friends from overseas. The ceremony began with the Lord’s Prayer and a blessing offered by the clergy, led by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. At the end of the ceremony, the Catholicos extended His blessing to all those present. “Glory and thanks be to God, who has showered us generously with His favor, by the means of which our Holy Church is beautified and made more splendid in its mission. We give thanks to God, that today, together with you, we are opening the doors of the Old Pontifical Residence,” He stated. The Catholicos also offered His blessings to the faithful children of the Armenian Church, Mr. and Mrs. Berge and Vera Setrakian, for undertaking the renovation of the Old Pontifical Residence. Describing the Setrakian family, He remarked: “They too wished to leave something good by which they would be remembered in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, because Holy Etchmiadzin has been a part of their lives, and has always had an important place in their mission.” He then expressed His appreciation to Mr. Setrakian for his leadership and continuous endeavors to strengthen the close ties between AGBU and the Armenian Church. That cooperation, He continued, is helping the church carry out its mission across the republic and the diaspora. At the end of the ceremony, the Catholicos beseeched to The All Mighty that Armenia and Armenians around the world might live in peace, so that, with appreciation and devotion, they can bring light, joy and optimism to Armenian life everywhere. Cutting the red ribbon, the Catholicos, together with Mr. and Mrs. Setrakian, officially opened the renovated Old Pontifical Residence. Guests were invited to tour the galleries and admire the array of historic, sacred and religious objects. Mr. Setrakian expressed his joy on this occasion and stated, “We have had Catholicoses and Patriarchs who have served our nation unwaveringly and are remembered as heroes. Their lives have been a source of inspiration for all of us and without their dedication and sacrifice; we would have probably lost our identity. I believe that Armenians as well as all those who visit the Old Pontifical Residence will pay tribute to their memory and their legacy will be kept alive.

The Old Pontifical Residence has a rich history that the renovations will help to further preserve.

By the time of Catholicos Ghazar I Jahketsi (1738-1751), the Catholicos’s Residence had already been moved from the western side of the Cathedral to the upper floor of the two-story building, which was constructed during the time of Catholicos St. Movses III Tatevatsi (1629-1632). Until 1962, every Catholicos continued to live and work in the Old Pontifical Residence. In 1968, at the time of Catholicos Vazgen I of blessed memory, the New Pontifical Residence was built, and with the support of benefactor Alex Manoogian, the Old Pontifical Residence was remodeled and began to operate as a museum. With the latest renovations, the Old Pontifical Residence is now home to a series of galleries dedicated to Catholicoses and kings of Armenia, where their art collections, treasured possessions and personal effects are showcased. In the Ornamented Hall, paintings by the Hovnatanian family and the 400-year-old Holy Chrism is on display. Nearby is the historical throne of the Armenian Catholicoses, made in Madras in 1837, and the Pontifical Eagle, which belonged to Catholicos Pilipos I Aghbaketsi (1632-1655). In another gallery are the personal belongings of Komitas Vardapet; also featured are unique examples of Armenian silver and needlework, and various ceremonial objects. The Old Pontifical Residence will operate as a museum and will serve as a guesthouse for high-ranking clergy visiting Holy Etchmiadzin.




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