Being the spiritual leader of Armenians for nearly 40 years, Vazgen was close to his people during the most important periods, including the fight for their independence, massacres of Armenians in Azerbaijan, the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the 1988 destructive earthquake in Spitak.
The Patriarch took part in all spheres of life of his country, supporting his people in those difficult times with his words and deeds.
Vazgen I (Վազգէն Ա) (Levon Garabed Baljian) was born into the family of a teacher and shoemaker in Bucharest in 1908. After graduating from the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest in the department of practical pedagogy, he taught in the Armenian schools of Bucharest for more than ten years and also edited and published the scientific journal “Arable Land” for some time.
In 1942, the future Catholicos was ordained as a priest in Athens. In 1943-1944, he studied at a theological faculty, received the degree of vardapet, and adopted the name Vazgen.
In 1947, he was appointed the head of the Romanian diocese. A year later, he was awarded the degree of the supreme vardapet, and in 1951, he received the rank of bishop.
Since 1954, under the supervision of Vazgen was also the Bulgarian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church. In 1955, he was elected the supreme patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians.
Vazgen I made a significant effort to unite the Armenian diaspora and strengthen the cultural and spiritual ties between them and their homeland. He received many awards for his public activities. Vazgen I has hugely contributed to the restoration of Armenian monasteries, churches, as well as the search for monuments of spiritual and material culture of Armenia.
It is thanks to the authority of Vazgen I that the Soviet officials displayed loyalty to the Armenian Church and the believers were not subjected to severe persecution.
The Catholicos wrote a number of philosophical, theological, and journalistic works, which he began to publish back in Paris and Bucharest in the 1930s:
“On the Notion of Personality” (1938)
“The Armenians of Mount Musa in the novel of Franz Werfel” (1940)
“Khrimian Hayrik as an educator” (1943)
“Lessons of psychology”
“A Word about the Motherland”
“Under the Sun of the Fatherland”
“Sincere letters to Armenian parents!”
“The Life and activity of St. Grigor Narekatsi”
The patriarch was elected an honorary member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences. After the proclamation of the independence of Armenia in 1991, he became the first to be awarded the highest decoration of the country, the title of the National Hero of Armenia.
But the highest award of the patriarch is the nationwide love and the bright memory living in his compatriots.
VAZGEN I CATHOLICOS