The speech of H.H. Karekin II Catholicos of All Armenians at the opening ceremony of “Armenia!” exhibition in The Met Fifth Avenue. September 24, 2018
Dear President Weiss,
Dear Prime Minister Pashinyan,
Brothers and sisters,
Today, our hearts are filled with joy as we witness the opening of the “Armenia!” exhibition at one of the world’s preeminent museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This amazing exhibition will show who we – Armenians – are and where we have come from, through the universal language of art. It celebrates the cultural achievements and spiritual values of our nation over fourteen centuries. Over the next four months, this exhibition will beautifully tell the story about our nation’s unwavering faith in God, our unique Christian identity and our ancient history.
The cultural objects and Christian relics displayed in this exhibition, indeed, offer the genuine feeling of the values that our first Christian nation created and that we have cherished over centuries.
For ages, our people have lived in the major international crossroads and participated in global trade along the Silk Road. This has added more depth and created a unique diversity in our cultural life; a cultural life which has always been anchored in Christianity, which has served to enrich our identity while also preserving our national character.
Throughout our history we have experienced both the benefits and challenges of our geography. We have created marvelously illustrated Gospels and illuminated manuscripts, and carved khachkars of unique charm. We have built Christian temples and monasteries across our vast biblical homeland as far back as the fourth century. At times of violent invasions by neighboring empires that sought to annihilate us, we had to take up arms and protect our way of life and identity – with trust in God. We have protected and saved everything that defines us as a people and as a nation – our homeland, our language, our churches, our literature, our shrines and faith. Our faith, our national church, has enabled Armenians to secure our uninterrupted national development even during the dark ages of statelessness.
And here we are today: a modern nation that proudly displays the richness of her God-given cultural heritage at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – to step into our deserved place among the great nations of the world.
All the items that we proudly display here reflect what we cherish, and they tell the story of our history and our destiny. These relics and artifacts, all this beautiful art, make absolutely clear what we, the Armenians, have contributed to the world’s cultural heritage.
While the exhibition is confined to art created between the fourth and eighteenth centuries, it is also about modern day Armenia, as it will allow visitors to learn about our extraordinary nation and gain a broader perspective of our Republic and our historical homeland.
This blessed enterprise has become possible not only thanks to Armenian and other institutions around the globe that have contributed pieces to it, as well as thanks to the profound generosity of our donors and benefactors – to whom we offer our profound appreciation – but, importantly, it has been nurtured with the honest love and remarkable care of our dear Dr. Helen Evans.
Conceived a few years ago, this idea of the exhibit would have remained only an idea without her persistence and passion, accumulated in many years of her dedicated career, of showing our art and identity to the world.
Indeed, through art we can relate to the creative mission of God in this world. This has been the driving force and comfort for our ancestors in Armenia, who have created and passed these astonishing relics of art down the centuries. We give thanks to Almighty God that there are true bearers of the torch of art and culture amongst us, such as Madam Evans, the entire stuff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, led by honorable Mr. Weiss and all those who were involved in the realization of such an excellent initiative.
Therefore, expressing the great love and appreciation of our faithful people, we would like to decorate Dr. Helen Evans – a true friend of our Armenian nation – with the high honors of the Armenian Apostolic Church – the Order of St. Sahak and St. Mesrop.
May God bless everyone – the kind friends of the Republic of Armenia and Armenians worldwide