Obituary: Lapajian was co-founder of Armenian church

A founding member of the Armenian Apostolic Church in America who helped build key faith-based institutions in Glendale and throughout the Southland will be mourned Sunday and Monday.

Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian, credited with helping to create St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church parish in Glendale and for years leading Holy Cross Cathedral in Montebello, died July 17 in Mission Hills.

"He was a very spiritual preacher who connected the issues of the biblical truth to the people's daily life," said the Rev. Muron Aznikian of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America Western Prelacy. "He especially targeted the new generation so they would keep their faith, be loyal citizens of this country and to contribute to the community and this country."

Lapajian was born in Beirut in 1927 and was soon orphaned. As a teen during World War II, he worked for the British Army in Lebanon. In 1948 he entered the seminary.

Lapajian came to the United States in 1961 as pastor of Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church in Los Angeles. In 1973, he was named prelate of the Western Prelacy — or diocese — of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America. He was ordained as a bishop the following year and in 1981 was named archbishop.

Lapajian played a pivotal role in expanding the church in Glendale, Hollywood and Orange County, founding parishes and schools throughout the region, teaching religion and ethics and leading Holy Cross until health problems forced him to reduce his activities in 1994.

"The archbishop played a critical role in building the foundation for the spiritual needs of the growing Armenian population in Southern California," said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian. "Under his leadership, many of the schools and churches that play such a vital role in the community today were initiated and completed."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich called Lapajian "a friend and dedicated spiritual leader" who played a key role in the community for more than 40 years.

Aznikian said Lapajian "was a man of good humor who was very gentle and always had a smile on his face."

Viewing will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Holy Cross Cathedral in Montebello, with a wake service at 7:30 p.m. The funeral, administered by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, will start at 10:30 a.m. on Monday at Holy Cross Cathedral, 900 W. Lincoln Ave., Montebello.

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