The Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America is deeply saddened to announce the passing of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, former Primate of the Western Diocese, whose life of service inspired and impacted the Armenian people and church worldwide.
His Eminence Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian was born Hovsep Hovsepian on June 11, 1930, in Beirut, Lebanon — one of three boys and two girls born to faithful, loving parents, Krikor and Ovsanna Hovsepian. He received his primary education at the Armenian Mesrobian School in Lebanon. Upon his graduation, he entered the Theological Seminary of Antelias. On June 24, 1951, he was ordained as a celibate priest by Bishop Derenik Poladyan, and he was given the priestly name of Vatche. Upon his ordination, he was appointed to serve as the Dean Assistant and Instructor at the Seminary.
In 1953, he went to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, an inspiring time of learning that he would remember fondly throughout his life.
For his first parish assignment, in 1956, Father Vatche was appointed the spiritual pastor of Holy Cross Armenian Church of Union City, New Jersey (USA). He infused the church and parish with new life. During this time he also continued his studies at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary at Rutgers and received his Bachelor of Divinity Degree.
Father Vatche was appointed in 1967 to serve as the Vicar General of the Diocese of Canada. He adeptly organized several new parishes and facilitated the implementation of a new constitution for the Canadian Diocese, bringing it into compliance with Canadian requirements. And in October 1967, he was consecrated as a Bishop by the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Vasken I of Blessed Memory.
In March 1971, His Eminence was elected as the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America. During his tenure in the Western Diocese, he established thirteen new parishes and ordained eight priests. In addition, he elevated and inducted hundreds of youth within the Diocese into the ecclesiastical ranks of Acolyte, sub-Deacon, and Deacon.
Bishop Vatche also led the growth of the Western Diocesan Summer Camp (“Hye Camp”), which began as a religious conference in 1964 and formalized in 1968. The camp grew significantly under his tenure, as the number of parishes in the Western Diocese increased. He was passionate to give Armenian youth a place to bond and learn their faith and culture, and thousands of Armenian youth have grown up at the camp over its many years.
In 1976, upon the commemoration of his 25th Anniversary of ordination, Bishop Vatche was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Vasken I. His vibrant leadership of the Diocese continued to invigorate Armenian churches across the West.
On April 28, 1981, Archbishop Vatche served as the Guest Chaplain of the United States Congress, delivering the invocation. He would also meet with five different Presidents of the United States over the course of his ministry — as well as multiple Popes of the Roman Catholic Church. And in April 1985, in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks, His Eminence was invited to address both houses of the California State Legislature.
Beginning in 1986, Archbishop Vatche served as a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Church in Holy Etchmiadzin, making countless trips to the Armenian homeland throughout his decades of ministry.
In 1988, after the disastrous earthquake in Armenia, Archbishop Vatche established the Orphan’s Fund in the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America. In addition, under his auspices, the Western Diocese rebuilt the St. Gregory the Illuminator High School in Stepanavan, Armenia. During his tenure, he helped form the St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian Armenian School in Pasadena, and the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park (formerly the St. Peter AGBU School), both of which serve the Armenian youth in the Los Angeles area.
In 1994, the Diocesan Headquarters were demolished because of the Northridge Earthquake and temporarily moved to the St. Gregory Armenian Church in Pasadena. In May 1997, through the Primate’s initiative, a new territory for the Diocesan Headquarters was purchased, and the new spacious Western Diocesan Headquarters was built in Burbank, California.
Upon the demise of His Holiness Vazken I of Blessed Memory, the late Catholicos of All Armenians, Archbishop Vatche was asked by the Locum Tenens, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, to organize the National Ecclesiastical Assembly in Etchmiadzin for the election of the new Catholicos, which he carefully planned and organized.
The Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin I, of Blessed Memory, appointed Archbishop Vatche to serve as the Chairman of the Constitution Committee of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He was charged with drafting a constitution, which was completed in 2002 and submitted for review and approval.
In 2003, after 32 years of devout, tireless, and reverential service, Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian retired as Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America. In his retirement, His Eminence continued to participate in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Ghevontiants Armenian Cathedral and parishes across the Western Diocese. The Western Diocese Summer Camp was named “The Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian Summer Camp” in 2013 by the Diocesan Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, as it was always an inseparable part of Vatche Srpazan’s heart and ministry.
Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian entered his eternal rest on December 18, 2022, surrounded by members of his family. Throughout his life, he cherished his family above all else — his beloved mother and father, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins — and his countless friends.
He is survived by his elder brother Hagop (and Satenig) Hovsepian, and their children Krikor Hovsepian, Taline (and Dr. Robert) Baklajian, and Susan Hovsepian; his sister Arshagouhi Tavitian and her children Dr. Arpi (and Dr. Penik) Kuyumjian, Dr. Avo Tavitian, Seta (and Dr. Simon) Tchekmedyian, and Dr. Ara (and Dr. Armineh) Tavitian; his sister Dikranouhi (and George) Kirazian and their children Yvette (and John) Harpootian, Andrea (and Steven) Urrutia, and Lisa (and Steve) Kradjian; and the wife and children of his late brother Hovhannes Hovsepian: Vivian Hovsepian, Vartan (and Armene) Hovsepian, Joy (and Juan) De Los Reyes, and Joseph Hovsepian; as well as 27 grand nieces and nephews and four great grand nieces and nephews.
Reflecting on the rich legacy of His Eminence Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, the Diocesan Primate His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian said, “Retirement was not a part of his vocabulary. Our beloved senior brother in Christ never weakened in his ministry, vision, and compassion to serve the flock of Christ and he made the Armenian Apostolic Church the journey of his life. He touched the hearts of thousands of people and certainly will be remembered by all with immense gratitude and reverence. Dear Vatche Srpazan, May you rest in God’s glory.”
The Western Diocese praises God for Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian’s legacy of service. For his impact in growing the Armenian Church by building multiple new parishes with his vibrant leadership, and for bringing Armenian communities together in growing faith over generations, the Western Diocese is eternally grateful.
The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated by the Diocesan Primate at St. Leon (Ghevontiants) Armenian Cathedral on Wednesday, December 28th at 9:00 a.m. during which the Last Unction Rite will take place. The funeral service will follow the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Following the interment at the Forest Lawn Memorial Hollywood Hills Memorial Park, a memorial luncheon will be held at the Nazareth and Sima Kalaydjian Hall of the Western Diocese.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian Camp, c/o Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, 3325 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank CA 91504, www.hyecamp.com.