The Armenian church in the Diaspora has lost one of its most eminent leaders with the death of Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand.
Baliozian had been in poor health over the past few years, and had recently entered Sydney’s leading the Royal North Shore Hospital, for treatment. His loss is particularly acute, coming at a time when the Diaspora church is facing crucial challenges on so many fronts.
Ever since the incapacitation of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Baliozian has been touted as a possible strong contender to succeed him on the Jerusalem See, considered the second most important spiritual center for Armenians all over the world, after the mother church at Etchmiadzin, Yerevan, capital of Armenia.
He was born in Syria’s second largest city Aleppo, where Armenian survivors had found a safe haven following the genocide.
Early in his youth, Baliozian had felt stirrings of a deep spiritual yearning and this led him to Jerusalem where he enrolled as a student of theology at the Armenian Patriarchate’s seminary. At the age 22, he was ordained a celibate priest.
In 1982, he was elected Primate of Australia and New Zealand. A brilliant orator who wasw never known to have used notes, he could move crowds and congregations with his eloquent sermons.
Among the duties he undertook in Jerusalem, was teaching and administering the affairs of the Armenian Patriarchate seminary where he was appointed dean in 1974.
A year later, he was picked by the Catholicos of all Armenians, Vasken I, to become Vicar General of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand.
Baliozian was always active in ecumenical affairs, and earned the distinction of being the first president of the National Ecclesiastic Council of Australia. He also represented the Armenian Church within the World Council of Churches. In 2001, he was elected Vice President of the New South Wales Ecumenical Council, a post to which he was elected three times.
In 1995 and again in 2003, the Australian government awarded him the state order of Australia for his “devout service and contribution to the country and society, especially to the Armenian community.”
Among the most prominent members of Baliozian’s local congregation, is the NSW minister for transport, Gladys Berejiklian, the statement read