Community unites in blessing

BURBANK — About 1,000 people gathered Saturday to watch the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II consecrate St. Leon Cathedral of the Western Diocese and dedicate a traditional cross stone in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In his fourth official visit to the region, His Holiness Karekin II blessed the cathedral, which will serve as the Western Diocesan headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church of North America.

"We greet you with a joyous spirit, and with words of praise and song from the hymn, we offer our appeal to heaven, so that this holy sanctuary, crowned with the all-sustaining divine cross, which became for us salvation and a sign of victory, brings new light to the spiritual vibrancy and strength of the national life of our son and daughters in America," he told congregants.

Religious leaders representing various faiths, and state and local officials attended the long-awaited ceremony and official opening.

Construction on the 22,103-square-foot cathedral was recently completed in the 3330 block of North Glenoaks Boulevard in Burbank, near the Golden State (5) Freeway.

With a capacity of 600, the cathedral, which includes a museum, was built from stone imported from Armenia.

Officials said the new cathedral will serve as a spiritual center for Armenian Americans for the region as the Western United States.

"We are very fortunate that the community for years came together and supported this with their hard work and money and what you see is a result of all of that coming together," Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said. "It is truly a result of a community effort and will continue to serve the community for generations to come."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said the cathedral represents "a great sense of what Armenians stand for in the United States and worldwide."

"The Armenian people represent unity for God, and they represent the kindness part of Christianity," he said.

The cathedral has "been a long-awaited dream" for the religious community, said His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, who spearheaded its construction.

Having His Holiness Karekin II travel from Armenia to Burbank to bless the new cathedral, he said, "gives us a new message to always maintain our Christian identity, cultural identity and above all, especially when the cathedral is consecrated on Sept. 11, for us this day with the concentration of people becomes a statement of peace in America and for Americans and in our home."

And while Saturday was a joyous day for the religious faithful, Derderian, who is also the primate of the Western Diocese, said it was a day of remembrance.

His Holiness Karekin II, along with the help of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, blessed a 7-foot-tall traditional Armenian hand-carved cross stone and dedicated it to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The cross stone, which will be erected at the cathedral, was inscribed with the message "Let Peace Reign."

"This cross stone that will stand near the church is a prayer offered to God, dedicated to thousands of innocent victims of Sept. 11, as well as an appeal to heal and dissipate the sorrows and pains of their loved ones and all people," His Holiness Karekin II told congregants.

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