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From Arthur Hagopian
Jerusalem, Jan 24 - The Armenian church in Jerusalem is perched on the verge of a new era following the election today ‎of its new Patriarch, the 97th in a direct line of succession from Abraham, the first Armenian patriarch of the Holy City.‎
Abraham was a contemporary of the Arab Caliph, Omar ibnul Khattab, who conquered Jerusalem, and held office ‎from 638 to 669 CE. He is buried within a few feet of the entrance to the ornate cathedral of St James, where the new ‎incumbent, Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian, was led in a solemn, jubilant procession in an age-old church ceremony, ‎by his fellow priests, members of the Brotherhood of St James.‎
They had come from various parts of the world to cast their votes for the man they considered most fit to inherit the ‎mantle of St James. ‎
After two days of prayer, deliberations and soul-searching, and the narrowing of the field to two contenders, the ‎enclave invested the future of the 2000 year old Armenian presence in Jerusalem, into the hands of one of the church's ‎most charismatic princes.‎
Manoogian, who until his election had been the Patriarchate's Grand Sacristan, will succeed the late patriarch, ‎Archbishop Torkom Manoogian (no relation) who passed away last year.‎
Armenians all over the world regard Jerusalem as their second most significant and profound fount of spiritual ‎rejuvenation and reinforcement, and its patriarchs have traditionally held more sway in universal church affairs than ‎the relatively small number of their fold merited.‎
Among their forebears, Armenian patriarchs number the illustrious Gregory Chain Bearer, a man who swung a chain ‎around his shoulders and vowed never to remove it, until the ominous debts of the Patriarchate had been settled in full.‎
The Armenian Patriarch's role in Jerusalem is two-fold, to act as a shepherd for their fold and at the same time take on ‎the role of one of the three main Guardians of the Holy Places. (The other two Guardians are the Greek Orthodox ‎church and the Latin Franciscan Custodia).‎
Manoogian, who was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1948, ascension to the throne of St James comes at one of the most ‎crucial interludes in the chronicles of Jerusalem, the immortal, walled city that is surrounded by the treacherous moat of ‎political machinations, tenuous security and economic uncertainty.‎
But challenges are what makes the man. Endowed with an imposing demeanor, a no-nonsense attitude and an ‎uncompromising defiance against any threats to the Armenian presence in this city, Manoogian has no qualms he will ‎be able to perpetuate the legacy of such illustrious forebears as the Chain Bearer.‎
In the process, he will bring a strong measure of stability to an institution that has seen more than its share of ‎turbulence in recent years.‎
Pix caption: Patriarch elect Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian


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