Archbishop Avak Asadourian

Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq

Archbishop Avak Asadourian (baptismal name Vazken) was born in 1942.

From 1962 to 1965, he studied at the Faculty of Urban Engineering of the Al-Hikma University of Baghdad (Iraq).

From 1968 to 1970, Archbishop Avak earned his Bachelor’s degree, studying at the Department of Philosophy at the Benedictine University, Illinois, USA.

From 1968 to 1973, he was awarded a five-year scholarship of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to study in the United States.

In June 1972, he earned a Master's degree in Philosophy at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.

From 1972 to 1973, while earning his Ph.D., His Eminence also delivered lectures in the Department of Philosophy at Tulane University.

In March 1973, Archbishop Avak was one of the 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 1970 to 1973, during his study years at the Academy, His Eminence Archbishop Avak Asadourioan received scholarships from the AGBU, the Armenian Student Association of America, and the Satenik Uzunyan Foundation.

In the summer of 1973, Archbishop Avak was in charge of the Armenian upbringing of the children in the AGBU Nubar Camp in New York.

In the summer of 1974, together with other students of the St. Nerses Seminary, His Eminence participated in a one-month travel program, dedicated to the 800th anniversary of the death of St. Nerses the Graceful, visiting the Armenian Churches of the Eastern Diocese.

From 1974 to 1975, he was a Vice-Dean in the AGBU Ararat Camp in Detroit, Responsible for the Armenian upbringing of the children.

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

In 1974, he was ordained to the diaconate by His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, at the St. Vartan Mother Cathedral of New York.

From 1974 to 1975, he was Vice-Dean in the AGBU Ararat Camp in Detroit, Responsible for the Armenian upbringing of the children.

From 1974 to 1976, he was the Conductor of the Armenian choir in Westchester.

In 1976, he took Clinical-Pastoral Education courses at Bellevue Hospital.

From 1976 to 1977, he lectured at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin.

In May 1977, he was ordained as a celibate priest by His Grace Bishop Housik Santourian, in the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, and given the priestly name of Avak.

In 1977, he was appointed to serve as the parish priest of the Holy Mother of God (now St. Stephens) Church of Elberon, New Jersey, USA.

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

1979, he was appointed to serve as the Locum Tenens of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq by His Holiness Vazken I.

In April 1980, the Deputy Council of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq, elected him to serve as the Primate of the Diocese of Iraq.

In October 1980, upon the successful defense of his thesis entitled "The History of Soteriology", he received the rank of Senior Archimandrite (Dzayraguyn Vardapet) by His Eminence Archbishop Sion Manoukian, in the St. Mesrop Church of Oshakan.

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

From 1984 to 1988, together with the religious leaders of different denominations of Iraq, Archbishop Avak Asadourian visited the Pope of Rome. He met with the members of different committees of the 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 1985, Archbishop Avak founded Sunday schools in diocesan churches and other parishes.

In 1986, he was one of the 300 delegates who participated in the conference of Interchurch Support and Service Assembly of the WCC, which took place in Cyprus. At the meeting, His Eminence 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, it was his fifth visit to Pope John Paul II.

In 1991, when the Persian Gulf War erupted, he served as a member of a delegation that met with Pope John Paul II, 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 the 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.

In December 1993, he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Vasken I.

In June 1996, he earned a Master of Divinity Degree in the St. Vladimir Seminary in New York, as a student of the St. Nerses.

In November 1998, successfully defended his thesis, received a Ph.D. and a Certificate of Summa Cum Laude, at Holy Cross Pontifical University.

From 1991 to 2000, in Amman, he has repeatedly attended the meetings of the Council of Churches of the Middle East, to discuss the Persian Gulf War.

In 1997, due to the efforts of His Eminence, the "Senior Archimandrite Mesrop Museum" was opened, where manuscripts, encyclicals, holy objects, icons are presented.

During his tenure, His Eminence Archbishop Avak Asadourian, in cooperation with the Central National Authority of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq (Diocesan Council), implemented the following projects:

The construction of the Church of the Holy Martyrs (1986-1990);

The enlargement of the four Armenian churches of Baghdad with new buildings;

The construction of a greater Complex for the Holy Mother of God Church of Baghdad (1990-2000);

The construction of a new church in the Armenian-populated village of Avzrog in northern Iraq (1999-2000);

The Ground-Blessing Service of the newly built Church in Mosul City (2001);

The construction of 8 profitable buildings (1980 - 1998);

Ten estates were bequeathed to the Church, becoming National property (1980-2000)

The establishment of cultural centers which include classrooms, a museum, a library and an Event Auditorium (1999-2001);

 The installation of a Cross-stone (khatchkar) Monument, dedicated to the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide (2000).

Archbishop Avak has published a book on the services of the "Holy Week". His Eminence is also the author of 3 English articles related to the lives of the St. Gregory of Narek, St. Nerses the Graceful and St. Gregory of Tatev, which were published in the 16-volume Religious Encyclopedia (New York, Macmillan Press, 1986).