Armenian Genocide Remembrance Service at Coventry Cathedral

Saturday 24th April 2021, Coventry Cathedral hosted the remembrance service for the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The 24th of April is a reminder to all Armenians of the past atrocities that our ancestors experienced. However, this ceremony represented the future of friendship between the nations, a response to God in reconciliation and a commitment to justice.

The remembrance ceremony began with Tereza Gevorgyan, Armenian soprano, singing ‘Soorp Soorp’ from the Armenian Divine Liturgy and pianist Artur Bobikyan playing ‘Dele Yaman’ by Komitas.

The Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, welcomed everyone and introduced the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation, a prayer which is used to acknowledge the brokenness of the world and confess our own part in that brokenness. The Dean explained that for some 60 years, Coventry Cathedral prays the Litany of Reconciliation each day, and it is prayed throughout the community of the Cross of Nails in 250 centres in around 30 countries across the world. 

The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, the Lord Bishop of Coventry, welcomed His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, as well as, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK and Papal Legate to the UK. 

Bishop Christopher spoke about his first encounter with His Grace Bishop Hovakim on a telephone call last year in October. In a car travelling back from Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), Bishop Hovakim celebrated the Eucharist for the last time in the foreseeable future at St. Minas Church in Nagorno Karabakh. Bishop Hovakim had asked Bishop Christopher for his prayers at that difficult time. 

Bishop Angaelos also shared his words and described the building of Coventry Cathedral as a representation of resilience and reconciliation even in the greatest of challenges. Having visited Holy Etchmiadzin on numerous occasions, Bishop Angaelos further spoke about St. Gregory the Illuminator (Surp Grigor Lusavorich) whom the Coptic Orthodox Church mentions daily in their liturgies. Bishop Angaelos remembered the atrocities of the Azerbaijan-Artsakh war in 2020: ‘A persecution that continues until today. Faithful Armenians, with tears in their eyes, setting fire to their own homes as they left a land that was theirs and was taken from them. That was painful to see. 

Chris Cliffe, Head Server, read from the Letter to the Hebrews and the Reverend Father Shnorq Bagdasaryan read the same passage in Armenian. As representatives of the Armenian Church Nayri Afrikyan, Deacon, and the Reverend Father Nshan Alaverdyan, Priest, read a passage from the Holy Gospel in Armenian. 

His Grace Bishop Hovakim shared a touching personal testimony about his great grandmother Marica, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. It was a story of pain and suffering but also a story of hope and victory. Marica had to leave her homeland after she saw the death of her 3 year old brother, Megerdich, killed by the Ottoman Turks. She changed homes several times in her life but she survived and had children of her own. 

His Grace Bishop Hovakim preached that ‘Megerdich and the one and a half million Armenians like him, who lost their lives under the sword of the Ottoman Turks, are our martyrs in heaven. Just as the Armenian nation survived those unspeakable atrocities at the beginning of the 20th century, so will the nation survive today and be resilient’. (Click here to read Bishop Hovakim’s full speech)

 Various faithful members from the Armenian community including Briony Krikorian, Anna Der Tavitian and Armineh Pogossian read intercessory prayers at Coventry Cathedral. 

At the end of the remembrance service gifts were exchanged. His Grace Bishop Hovakim gifted Bishop Christopher an icon of the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. Mr Gagik Kirakosyan, Charge d’Affair at the Armenian Embassy of the UK, also gifted Bishop Christopher a book of the various famous Armenian Khachkars. Bishop Christopher gifted Bishop Hovakim an English Bible which has the Cross of Nails inscribed into the leather cover. Bishop Christopher is looking forward to visiting Armenia soon if Covid allows.

After the service, the Dean of Coventry Cathedral invited the guests on a guided a tour around the original Coventry Cathedral that was destroyed by Nazi forces in the Autumn of 1940.

Bishop Hovakim thanks Bishop Christopher and his entire team for this wonderful remembrance service. He also thanks Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Bishop Johnathan Goodall from the Church of England for travelling to and joining him at this prayer service. 

A special thanks to Canon David Stone, Angelika Ghazaryan, Nicky Krikorian, Briony Krikorian, Anna Der Tavitian and Armineh Pogosian for helping to prepare this remembrance service as well as Tereza Gevorgyan and Artur Bobikyan for their wonderful songs and music.