On December 4th, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians arrived at the Shirak Diocese, where he presided over the opening of the Gyumri Children’s Center. It is the 8th Children’s Center operating under the auspices of the Mother See and the Armenian General Benevolent Union. The center was renovated and upgraded thanks to a generous donation by Mrs. Sandra Shahinian-Leitner, USA. His Holiness was accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisyan; Director of External Relations and Protocol Department of the Mother See, His Grace Bishop Moushegh Babayan; Director of the Administrative Office of the Mother See, His Grace Bishop Hovnan Hakobyan; Grand Sacristan of the Mother Cathedral and His Grace Bishop Vardan Navasardyan; Director of the Christian Education Center. His Grace Bishop Mikael Ajapahyan; Primate of the Diocese of Shirak, Governor of Shirak Felix Tsolakyan; Gyumri Mayor Samvel Balasanyan; as well as provincial and municipal government representatives greeted the Armenian Pontiff as he arrived in Gyumri. Following the traditional welcome offerings of salt and bread, His Holiness along with the Governor of Shirak and the Mayor of Gyumri, cut the red ribbon signifying the opening of the center and with His Grace Bishop Michael Ajapahyan, a blessing ceremony for the newly opened Children’s center took place. The Catholicos of All Armenians and guests toured the Children’s Center, visited the different groups operating in the facility and spoke with its students. The students gave a performance to mark the joyous occasion at the Center’s auditorium. The performance commenced with the Lord’s Prayer, then opening remarks were made by Very Rev. Fr. Komitas Hovnanyan; Spiritual Dean of the Children’s Centres of the Mother See, expressing his delight at the opening of the new Center in Gyumri. He noted that the center will make an important contribution to childrens’ spiritual, national and educational lives. Fr. Komitas also expressed hope that in accordance with the vision of His Holiness, one day every city and village in Armenia would have one of these wonderful Children’s Centers. During the ceremony, Governor Tsolakyan and Mayor Balasanyan expressed their heart-felt emotions, stressing the importance of the opening of the Youth Center and expressing their confidence that it would become an important pillar in presenting the region's cultural identity. The governor and mayor expressed their gratitude to His Holiness for offering such a valuable gift to Gyumri. They also presented gifts to the new institution. His Grace Bishop Ajapahyan welcomed the visit of His Holiness to the Diocese of Shirak. Bishop Mikael presented the history of the establishment of the Children’s Center. He expressed his gratitude to His Holiness, to the benefactors and all the supporters, for their work. The Primate of the Diocese of Shirak commended the people of Gyumri and said that the children of Gyumri had long wished for such a center and their wish had finally come true. The ceremony concluded with the blessing by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians. “We know that Gyumri is a gifted city: it has a unique flavor. And we are sure that this establishment will contribute to this”, said His Holiness stressing that he wishes to see this unique Children’s Center in Gyumri be filled with talented children. The Catholicos of All Armenians also expressed his delight that the Armenian Church would be able to contribute to the education and upbringing of the children of Gyumri. The Armenian Patriarch offered his blessings to the Primate of the Diocese of Shirak. His Holiness prayed for the strength of the homeland and for the welfare of the population of Gyumri and the Shirak province. Following the remarks, performances were given by the Gyumri State Symphony Orchestra, under the artistic directorship of Yervand Varosyan; the Gyumri State Orchestra of Folk Instruments, under the artistic directorship of Art Honoree J. Kaghtsrikyan; and the Armenian Ornaments dance ensemble and theater group of the Children’s Center.