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November 2009

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OBITUARIES

His Eminence Archbishop Nerses Bozabalian, died in Etchmiadzin on 27 June 2009 aged 72 years.

Hakob Krikor Bozabalian was born at Kirikhan, Antakya (Cilicia) on 5 July 1937 but when he was two years old his parents, Grigor and Makrouhy Bozabalian, migrated to Beirut where he received his primary education at the Noubarian Armenian College, the Armenian Seminary of Antelias, and the Central High College of Beirut. In 1957 his family repatriated to Armenia. Here he continued his education at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. He was ordained to the diaconate that same year by Archbishop Haikazoon Abrahamian. From 1960-61 he continued his education at the Academy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Zagorsk. He was ordained as a celibate priest on 4 June 1961 by Supreme Catholicos Vazken I, when he was given the priestly name of Nerses. In 1962 upon the successful defense of his thesis, Fr. Nerses received the rank of Vardapet) and, in 1965 he was promoted to the rank of Dzayraguyn Vardapet. From 1963 to 1965 Fr. Nerses studied at the Department of Theology at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield in Yorkshire during which time he participated in summer courses in English culture and literature at Cambridge University and become a dedicated anglophile. Upon his return from England, he served as the dean of Gevorkian Theological Seminary until 1969. From 1969 to 1970 he studied at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Geneva and also served as the spiritual pastor for the Swiss-Armenian community from 1969 to1972. He was sent to London as the Primate of the Diocese of England from 1973 to 1982 and on 20 October 1974 he was consecrated as a bishop by Catholicos Vasken.

Abba Seraphim & Archbishop Nerses, 2003

In 1982 he returned to the Mother See of Holy to serve as the Chancellor of the Catholicosate of All Armenians and in 1986 was elevated to the rank of Archbishop. As an committed ecumenist he was a good representative of the Armenian Church on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. He also served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Bible Society of the Middle East and in 1982 he was responsible for establishing the Bible Society of Armenia. He was closely associated with the Administration of Catholicos Vazgan and the short pontificate of Catholicos Karekin I (1995-1999), following whose death he was elected to serve as Locum Tenens of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and organized the Catholicosal elections that took place on 27October, 1999. He was himself a favoured candidate for the post but many observers felt that the Armenian government’s intervention during the election prevented such an outcome.

Under Catholicos Karekin II he was replaced as Chancellor and moved to become Director of the Publishing Department of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, a post which he held until his retirement in 2007. He based himself at the ancient monastery church of St. Gayane but was a frequent visitor to his beloved sister, whose apartment in Yerevan enjoyed a panoramic view of Mount Ararat. Here he and his sister warmly entertained this many ecumenical friends. In 2000, to mark the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination Archbishop Nerses sponsored the construction of the Holy Martyrs Church in the village of Teghenik, in the Kotayk Region in memory of his parents. The church was consecrated in 2003, at which time he was awarded the Order of St. Gregory the Illuminator by Catholicos Karekin II.

On the night of 17-18 February Archbishop Nerses was attacked by a seventeen year-old thief in the Etchmiadzin Monastery guest house who had deceived the guards to gain entry. The Archbishop was found to be in a serious condition and was taken immediately to Etchmiadzin Hospital, which transferred him to the Nayiri Medical Centre, where he was found to be in a coma, having suffered brain paralysis, from which he never recovered.

On 30 June 2009 he was buried in the courtyard of the Church he founded at Teghenik.

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