On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, a group of friends and benefactors of Holy Etchmiadzin gathered at a dinner hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Nazar and Artemis Nazarian in honor of His Holiness Karekin II's 60th birthday. The event was held at Manhattan's Metropolitan Club and was attended by 60 people in an atmosphere of warm friendship and cordiality. Berge Setrakian, president of AGBU, acting as the master of ceremonies, welcomed the guests and congratulated His Holiness on his birthday. "You are surrounded tonight by great friends of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Catholicos of All Armenians" he said, and further noted that the AGBU has been a longstanding supporter of His Holiness' initiatives to further strengthen the Armenian Church. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), after thanking the hosts and congratulating the Catholicos, spoke on the need to develop strong spiritual leadership in the Armenian Church -- a mission His Holiness has advanced throughout his pontificate. He then announced on that occasion the establishment of the Pontifical Endowment for Pastoral Development, which will be chaired by Mr. Setrakian. "From my experience, I can testify that having a dedicated, well-prepared pastor is key to a flourishing parish life...Our parishes flourish, family spiritual life flourishes, and our church as a whole will flourish," said the Primate. Following the announcement of the establishment of the fund, Mr. Setrakian stated that AGBU had decided to earmark $1 million of its scholarship programs for this purpose. Mr. and Mrs. Nazarian took the initiative of donating $1 million to this fund in lieu of Vehapar's birthday gift and they were followed with similar amounts by Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Ruth Bedevian and Mr. and Mrs. Hratch and Suzanne Toufayan. Mr. and Mrs. Setrakian then announced their contribution of $250,000 and they were followed by Mr. and Mrs. Yervant and Melissa Demirjian, Mr. and Mrs. Haig and Elsa Didizian, and Mr. and Mrs. Nishan and Margaret Atinizian with $100,000 each. Mr. and Mrs. Harry and Edna Keleshian, Oscar Tatosian, and Jerry Demirjian pledged $50,000 each. Mr. and Mrs. George and Alice Kevorkian, Mr. and Mrs. Zaven and Arlene Dadekian, Mr. and Mrs. Papken and Anahid Megerian, and Dr. and Mrs. Haroutune and Shakeh Mekhjian pledged $25,000 each. Further donations continued to follow. Mr. Setrakian then announced that Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Diocese of Armenian Church of North America (Western), had informed him that a pledge drive getting underway in that region had raised $1 million so far for the same purpose. To conclude the evening, His Holiness Karekin II expressed his deep appreciation to Mr. and Mrs. Nazarian for hosting the evening, and addressed the guests in his usual cordial tone. "Coming here, I feel I am among family," he said. "I feel blessed and strengthened to know that you have been and continue to be so supportive of my ministry as Catholicos of All Armenians, and recognize the importance of advancing the clergy in our church."



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