Catholicos Honors Vartan Ouzounian


Vartan Ouzounian and his family

LONDON — Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II bestowed upon a member of the Armenian Church in the UK, Vartan Ouzounian, the St. Nerses Shnorhali medal with an encyclical for his many years of service to the Armenian Church and Armenian people, both in the Motherland and the diaspora.

This is the first time that someone in the UK has received the St. Nerses Shnorhali medal.

Born in Syria, Ouzounian was brought up and educated with the Armenian spirit. At an early age he realized the importance of preserving the national identity and since his student years, Ouzounian has been actively involved in the national and spiritual life of Armenian communities.

Ouzounian was active in the Lebanese-Armenian community. While at the AGBU Hovagimian Manougian Secondary School in Beirut, he set up an annual intercollegiate cultural festival which continued for more than two decades. Over the years it brought together Armenian students from all political factions under a cultural umbrella and established a level of friendship and co-operation between them not seen in the past.

Ouzounian continued his efforts in favor of the prosperity of the Armenian community in Ethiopia and Great Britain, organizing cultural, social and sporting events. He made great contributions to the activities of the AGBU, the Tekeyan Cultural Association in London, the ADL and other national institutions.

Ouzounian is one of the founders and the secretary of the Tekeyan Trust in London (TTL), which supports Diaspora-Armenia cooperation by bringing theatrical groups, dancers, musicians and other artists from Armenia to the UK for performances as well as by organizing various exhibitions and lectures. The TTL included the Institute of Armenian Music, Arax Folk Dance group, which continued to perform for seven years, and Erebouni, the biweekly and then monthly paper in London, which was printed for more than 15 years.

Being a member of the Church Council for many years and then its chairman, Ouzounian devoted himself to the prosperity of the Armenian Diocese of the UK.

Ouzounian is one of the founders and the chairman of Tekeyan Centre Fund in Armenia, which serves as a symbol of unity of the Armenians all over the world. The fund aims to develop culture, education and science.

The impressive ceremony of reading of the Gontag and the bestowal of the medal took place at St. Yeghishe Church in London on November 27. More than 300 people (leaders of various organizations, long-standing Tekeyan supporters, benefactors, friends and family members) had come to extend congratulations to Vartan Ouzounian and his family. Among the dignitaries present at the ceremony were Karine Kazinian, ambassador of Armenia to the UK, Charles Lonsdale, British ambassador to Armenia, Jonathan Aves, ambassador-designate of the UK to Armenia who will take over in January 2012.

Rev. Nerses Nersessian performed the Badarak on this occasion. In his sermon ,Nersessian referred to the concept of serving without expecting any rewards and mentioned the fact that he had worked with Ouzounian for many years. At the conclusion of the Badarak, he read the Gontag. Then Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, the newly-ordained bishop at Echmiadzin, who approached Karekin II to honor Ouzounian, fixed the Nerses Shnorhali medals on Vartan Ouzounian and his wife, Rosette. The bishop mentioned that the catholicos knew Vartan Ouzounian and his activities very well and thought him to be worthy of the honor.

The celebration continued with a reception at Cothorne Tara Hotel in the presence of 100 guests. The evening featured Armenian music, slide show of the TCA, TTL and TCF activities, speeches as well as words of congratulations from high-ranking clergymen and dignitaries.

The master of ceremonies was Hratch Koumrouyan, a close friend from Lebanon. After lunch, Hovhanessian expressed his good wishes to the Ouzounian family and referred to Ouzounian’s background which had given him the encouragement in recommending him to the catholicos for this medal, which was the first in the community.

Kazinian, in her brief speech, congratulated Ouzounian and wished him more successes in the future. Then Koumrouyan read a message from Sylva Krikorian, the chairman of the Tekeyan Trust London (she could not attend because of health reasons). In her note, Krikorian also detailed the creation of Tekeyan Centre Armenia, which seemed too hard to realize.

It has become a reality due to the efforts of one person — Vartan Ouzounian, who took the responsibility for the construction of Tekeyan Centre. He sacrificed his health, his time and family to complete the project successfully. For many years acting as the fund’s chairman, Ouzounian has been overseeing the activities of the fund. On behalf of TTL and TCA, Krikorian thanked him for his devotion to his nation.

Taline Avakian, a Trustee of TCF Armenia and TTL, took the podium and after expressing her heartfelt good wishes to the Ouzounian family, referred to more of the difficulties that the Tekeyan Trust and Ouzounian faced starting the Tekeyan Centre project. Even now, she said, the Tekeyan Centre is experiencing difficulties. In addition to closing the debt, the funds go toward the renovation of the building.

In his address to the well-wishers, Ouzounian expressed gratitude to the catholicos for recognizing his services to the Armenian communities in Lebanon, Ethiopia, the UK and Armenia. He thanked the Primate, Hovhanessian, for his initiative in recommendation, as well as all the supporters of his activities over many years. Then Ouzounian specifically referred to the TCA London work over the past 36 years and mentioned that the TCA activities would recover with a formation of new committee and also the establishment

of a website (together with the Tekeyan Trust).

He also announced that the new committee would get ready to celebrate in a few years’ time the 40th anniversary of the TCA London with a publication which would also include the names and pictures of all the active participants, committee and subcommittee members not only of the TCA but also those of the Tekeyan Trust. At the end of his speech Ouzounian launched the fund raising issue to support the structural needs of Tekeyan schools in Armenia and Karabagh.

The reception was concluded by Rosette Ouzounian. She expressed her thanks to all their supporters and spoke about their commitment to serve the Armenian people and the church. She closed the function with her recitation of Vahan Tekeyan’s “Hashvehartar,” which was delivered so movingly that the guests gave her a standing ovation.