By Assadour Guzelian
LONDON — On the evening of October 28, an unprecedented ecumenical church service of historical importance took place at Westminster Abbey. The service was dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide with the participation of the Anglican and Armenian Apostolic churches, presided over by Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II.
The event was unique in nature, given that hitherto no such ecumenical service commemorating the Armenian Genocide had taken place in the UK. Westminster Abbey welcomed under its imposing arches more than 2,000 people. Among the dignitaries attending the service were Prince Charles, representing the British royal family; Serge Sargisian, president of the Republic of Armenia; the Armenian delegation representing the government of Armenia; the Lord Mayor of Westminster; representatives of the government and the Parliament of the United Kingdom; ambassadors and diplomats representing various countries; bishops and prelates of the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches; Armenians living in the UK, as well as representatives of Armenian communities worldwide.
Westminster Abbey is the most important church in the United Kingdom. Most of the events and functions of national and international importance take place there, including coronations, royal weddings, burials and requiems for important persons. It is also used to mark great historical events so there could not have been a better place to commemorate the sacred memory of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide in a befitting and dignified manner.
The event was organised and sponsored by Dr. Armen Sarkissian, former prime minister and current ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the UK. He belongs to the generation whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents survived the Genocide. For him, as for so many others, this service — besides having a pure religious and political meaning — was also a moral and emotional necessity, a purification of the soul. I refer you to Sarkissian’s welcoming speech printed in the brochure for the event.
During the service the Anglican and Armenian ecclesiasts successively recited prayers and read passages from the Bible. The hymns were sung by the choir of St. Yeghishe Armenian Church.
In his sermon the Dean of Westminster Abbey, John Hall, referred to the story of Cain, who killed his brother Abel. Drawing a parallel, he mentioned victims of the Armenian Genocide, who lost their lives at the hands of criminals, whose hearts were filled with hatred. Recalling the newly sanctified martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, the Dean asked for their prayers and blessings for the salvation of our souls.
The representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London and pastor of the Royal Family, His Grace Lord Richard Charters, delivered a sermon befitting the occasion followed by the hymn dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.
Prayers were read by the children of Genocide survivors: Assadour Guzelian, Shake Major-Tchilingirian, Elen Adamyan and Ambassador Armen Sarkissian. Prayers were also read by pastors Christopher Shots, Vernon White and Baroness Caroline Cox.
The service was concluded when Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II delivered his message, prayers and blessings, followed by the Patriarchal hymn, the national anthems of Armenia and the United Kingdom.
This ecumenical service marked the fitting conclusion of all the events organized worldwide during 2015 to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. One could also add that after the 28th of October, the question of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide will start a new phase in the UK.