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Aram I ends visit to Cyprus in ‘year of diaspora’

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Aram I, the head of the Armenian Church of Cilicia, ended his three-day official visit to Cyprus, raising awareness about the blockade of Artsakh and strengthening ties with the members of the community living on the island, as part of his worldwide tour marking the ‘year of the diaspora’.

He met with community leaders, visited the Armenian school in Nicosia and had a sincere exchange of views with President Nikos Christodoulides and Archbishop Georgios III.

During his meeting with President Christodoulides, Catholicos Aram discussed issued related to the Armenian community in Cyprus, Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and the lack of humanitarian aid which has reached 100 days, the international challenges facing Armenia, and the upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon.

He said that the Armenian diaspora will continue to support Cyprus around the world, and especially in the Middle East.

During the meeting, Aram I also expressed the belief that President Christodoulides with his political experience “will open a new chapter for Cyprus that will lead it to new achievements.”

He added that, “assuming the presidency of a country at a time when there are many conflicts around the world, but especially in the region, is a challenge.”

Aram I later said that both President Christodoulides and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whom he visited in Athens last week, pledged to raise the issue of Artsakh and the plight of the people of Armenia during the upcoming EU Council meeting.

Accompanied by Vartkes Mahdessian, the Armenian Representative in parliament, and Archbishop Khoren Doghramadjian, head of the Armenian Prelature in Nicosia, the Catholicos then visited Archbishop Georgios III.

The religious leaders reviewed the historical and ongoing cooperation between the two Orthodox churches, the continued Turkish occupation of the northern part of Cyprus and the destruction of national and religious heritage, as well as ways to share resources in promoting national issues.

He has often supported Cyprus at international fora, especially during his various years of service in the Middle East Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

Visit to Nareg school

Aram I also visited the Nareg elementary school and gymnasium in Nicosia, telling the nearly 200 students that Armenian schools have a crucial mission, especially within the worldwide diaspora, to preserve the national identity and protect the Armenian language.

“The institution of the Armenian school is a vital pillar of the community. It should be kept strong and lively,” he wrote in the Nareg visitor’s book.

Earlier, the Catholicos met with representatives of all Armenian community organisations in Cyprus, reiterating the urgency to defend the Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora triptych, saying that “the Armenian nation is facing challenging times. It is imperative for us all to work together.”

He said that restructuring the diaspora organisations will ultimately benefit Armenia and help strengthen Artsakh.

He added that the diaspora is scattered and needs to be reassembled by redefining community values, education and harmony.

He added that a working group aimed at preserving the Western Armenian language, as well as ways to train teachers has been revived, after being suspended during the Covid pandemic.

During his visit to Cyprus, Aram I also met with the Maronite religious leader in Cyprus, Bishop Salim Spheir, professors of religious and Greek Orthodox studies at the University of Cyprus, and other inter-faith organisations.