Archbishop Avak Asadourian

Archbishop Avag Asatourian (baptismal name Vazken) was born in 1942.

Upon his graduation from primary and secondary schools, he embarked on a quest to continue his higher education.

From 1962 to 1965, he studied at the Jesuit run City Engineering Faculty of the Al-Hikma University of Baghdad.

He continued his studies, after winning a 5 year scholarship award from the Galoust Gulbenkian Foundation, by attending the Department of Philosophy at the Benediction University, in Illinois, where he earned a Bachelors degree, graduating in 1970.

He went on to study Philosophy at Tulane University in New Orleans where he earned his Masters degree. While earning his PhD at Tulane, he also delivered lectures in the Philosophy department. In 1973, he was one of two students to be chosen to represent Tulane University at the International Leaders Assembly of Washington, the purpose of which was to introduce the working methods of the US government to the students.

From 1973 to 1976, he worked in the AGBU office of New York as the Administrative Assistant of the Eastern district, at the same time teaching Armenian Language both in the Headquarters and in the AGBU.

He was ordained to the diaconate at 1974 at the St. Vartan Mother Cathedral of New York by then Archbishop Torgom Manoukian.

In May 1977, he was ordained as a celibate priest in the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin by Bishop Housik Santourian, and given the priestly name of Avak. Upon his ordination he was appointed to serve as the parish priest of the Holy Mother of Christ (now St. Stephens) church of Elberon New Jersey, USA. While there, he participated in the meetings of the National Church Assemby, representing the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.

In February of 1978, during the visit of the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Vazken I of blessed memory, he received the rank of Archimandrite.

He returned to Iraq and was appointed to serve as the Locum Tenens of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq. In April 1980, the Deputy Council of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq, elected him to serve as the Primate of the Diocese. He has been continuously re-elected, the most recent elections being held in 2004.

Upon the successful defense of his thesis entitled "This History of Soterology", he received the rank of Senior Archimandrite (Dzayraguyn Vardapte) at the St. Mesrop church of Oshakan by Archbishop Sion Manoukian.

Father Avak was consecrated as a Bishop in February 1982, by the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Vazken I, in the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin.

1984 and 1988 Together with the religious leaders of different denominations of Iraq Archbishop Avag Asatourian visited the Pope of Rome. He met with the members of different committees of Vatican, the Secretary of the WCC, the International Red Cross Commission, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Committees of the Catholic Churches of different countries. The aim of these visits was to promote the establishment of peace between Iraq and Iran.

In 1984 Archbishop Avag organized a five-year-program of study for married men who after their graduation and ordination to the priesthood, would serve in the Armenian Diocese of Iraq. In 1980, when His Grace was elected as the Primate of Iraq, five parishes (out of eight) had no priests.

He was one of 300 delegates who participated in the conference of Interchurch Support and Service Assembly of the WCC, which took place in Cyprus in 1986. At the meeting His Grace was elected as a member of the Management and Planning Commission. Due to his efforts the Armenian Genocide of 1915 was included in the definition of the final resolution.

In 1991, when the Persian Gulf War erupted, he served as a member of a delegation that met with Pope John Paul II (his fifth visit), the members of WCC, Bishop Council of Catholic Church and high officials of European Countries. He also met the UN Secretary General in New York City During this time, he often participated in the meetings of Middle East Church Council in Amman on the impact of the Persian Gulf War.

From 1992 to 1995 he had the opportunity to visit the Churches of Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Switzerland and England upon the invitation of these Church Councils or church leaders.

He was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Vasken I in December 1993.

Continuing on with his studies, he enrolled in the St. Vladimir Seminary in New York and graduated with a Master of Divinity Degree in June 1996, and in November 1998, successfully defended his thesis to receive a PhD and the honors of Summa Cum Laude at Holy Cross Pontifical University.

During his service as the Primate of the Diocese of Iraq, Archbishop Avag Asatourian, working together with the Diocesan Council, has established many programs. In 1985 he established Sunday Schools in the Church Headquarters Church and in different parishes. The choir of the Headquarter Church has been reorganized, another church choir consisting of young boys and girls, as well as choirs for 4 other churches were developed.

In 1986 He established the Armenian Church-loving people’s Union. People of all ages attend the events organized by the union; they participate in the lectures delivered on the study of Holy Scriptures and Armenian Church History. Currently 200 people are enrolled in this program started by 9 young boys and girls.

He has undertaken numerous building projects, the most significant being the creation of a museum for the Diocesan Headquarters. He has collected manuscripts, encyclicals, holy objects, icons, and vestments and recording and cataloging them for the museum. The official opening of the museum took place in November, 1997. It was named the "Senior Archimandrite Mesrop’s Museum". Other major projects were; the construction of the Church of Holy Martyrs; the enlargement of the four Armenian churches of Baghdad; the construction of a greater complex for the Holy Mother of Christ Church of Baghdad; the construction of a new church for the village of Avzrouk inhabited by Armenians, in the north of Iraq; establishment of cultural centers which include classrooms, a museum, a library and a great hall and the installation of a cross-stone (khatchkar) dedicated to the memory of the Armenian Genocide.

Archbishop Avak has published various works including; a book on the services of the "Holy Week", articles on the lives of Gregory of Narek, Nerses the Graceful and Gregory of Tatev.