logo2The possibility of creating a distinct Armenian Church diocese for Canada was a matter of discussion for some time. But it was only in the early 1970s that the first steps were taken to extract the Canadian churches from their parent jurisdiction, the Eastern Diocese of America, headquartered in New York City. From 1970 through 1975, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian held consultations with the parish councils of the churches of Montreal, Toronto and St. Catharines. A set of bylaws was drawn up in 1977 and submitted to the primate and the Diocesan Council for the proposed Canadian diocese. A copy was forwarded to Catholicos Vasken I at Holy Etchmiadzin, and the reaction of the Supreme Spiritual Council was positive. “The establishment of a Canadian diocese is only a matter of time,” it decreed, “and should be realized no later than six months after the issuance of this letter.”

This objective would take somewhat longer to realize, however. In February of 1980, a letter containing recommendations from the primate and the Diocesan Council was addressed to His Holiness for approval and ratification. It proposed the establishment of a fully operational Canadian diocese by 1983. With the consent of the catholicos, a committee would be created under the presidency of the vicar of Canada whose membership would include the pastors, parish council chairmen and delegates from the seven Canadian parishes1. This committee would review the bylaws drafted in 1977; pursue the organization of choirs, youth committees and women’s guilds within each of the parishes; and recommend the location for the seat of the future primate of Canada.

In an encyclical dated November 15, 1980, His Holiness Vasken I officially authorized the. creation of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada, thus setting in motion a series of rapid developments. In February 1981, the guidelines for the Canadian diocese were considered and approved by the representatives of the parishes. In November 1982, the catholicos gave his consent to the bylaws. On September 3, 1983, the first Diocesan Assembly of the Canadian diocese was convened at Toronto’s Holy Trinity Church. Archbishop Manoogian presided over the meeting of thirty-two delegates representing the seven Canadian parishes. The encyclical of His Holiness Vasken I was read, officially announcing the establishment of the Canadian diocese, whose offices would henceforth be located at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Montreal, and which would now enjoy the direct spiritual administration of the Mother See. Archbishop Manoogian announced that a locum tenens, Fr. Vazken Keshishian, would assume his duties as of November 1, 1983.

The following year, Fr. Keshishian was ordained as a bishop by the catholicos at Holy Etchmiadzin. Finally, on October 6, 1984, the Diocesan Assembly convening at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of St. Catharines elected Bishop Vazken Keshishian as the first primate of Canada. Bishop Keshishian was granted the rank of ” archbishop ” in 1988, and he continued in office until March of 1990. At that time, sadly, the primate passed away. Fr. Hovnan Derderian took over the leadership of the diocese as locum tenens, and in May of 1990, he succeeded Archbishop Keshishian as primate. Subsequently raised to the rank of bishop and, later, archbishop, the young and dynamic Archbishop Derderian was re-elected to the primacy in 1995 and serves in that capacity to the present day.

With the creation of a distinct jurisdiction for their Church, the Armenians of Canada were inspired to build their community with renewed vigor and optimism. Older parishes flourished, and new ones rapidly formed. There was a flowering of social and cultural activities, and weekday, Saturday and Sunday schools began to function in most parishes. Presently, the diocese supervises nine parishes across the country: the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral of Montreal, Holy Trinity of Toronto, St. Gregory the Illuminator of St. Catharines, St. Mary of Hamilton, St. Vartan of Vancouver, St. Mesrob of Ottawa, St. Vartan of Mississauga, Holy Resurrection of Windsor and Holy Cross of Laval. Each of these has its parish council, various auxiliary organizations and a permanent or visiting pastor. In recent years, new mission parishes have emerged in Nova Scotia, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary.

The Primates of the Canadian Diocese

October, 1984 – March, 1990 Abp. Vazken Keshishian
May, 1990 – May, 2003 Abp. Hovnan Derderian
May, 2003 – May 2013 Bishop Bagrat Galstanian
May, 2033 – May 2014 Abp. Nathan Hovhannisyan

Current Primate: Bishop Abgar Hovakimian

Official website of the Diocese