Four Primates Are Graduates of St. Nersess
St. Nersess has given four Primates, 37 priests, and many lay ministers who are serving the Armenian Church today including Archbishop Avak Assadourian, Primate of the Diocese of Iraq; Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Primate of the Diocese of France; Bishop Nareg Berberian, Primate of the Diocese of Brazil; and Bishop-elect the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, the new Primate of the Eastern Diocese of Armenian Church of America.
With the recent election of Fr. Daniel, he is the latest alumnus of the seminary to be serving as a Primate of a Diocese. An American born priest, Fr. Daniel graduated from St. Nersess in 1989 and was ordained a celibate priest in 1997. He earned his doctorate in Liturgical Studies from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, and previously earned a Master of Arts degree in Musicology from the City University of New York, and a Master of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He has been teaching at St. Nersess for over 20 years, served as its dean from 2000-2012, and most recently served as the Director of the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in New York City.
Archbishop Avak Asadourian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Iraq, received an M.A. in Philosophy from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, where he taught Philosophy prior to becoming a student at St. Nersess Seminary in 1973. In 1976, he received his Master of Divinity degree from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary as a St. Nersess student. He was ordained a celibate priest in 1977 and was consecrated a bishop in 1982 by His Holiness Vasken I in Holy Etchmiadzin and elevated to the rank of archbishop in 1993. In 1998, he received a Ph.D. from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross affiliated with the Vatican with “Summa Cum Laude” qualification. He has served as the Primate of the Diocese of Iraq for nearly 40 years. During his time as Primate, he has led his flock through the Iraq-Iran War, the Gulf War and more recently the conflicts in Iraq since 2003. In 1988 and then in 2015, he published the Service Book for Holy Week (complete and then abridged copies), a useful tool for altar servers as well as the faithful, which can be purchased through the seminary.
Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Primate of the Diocese of France, graduated from St. Nersess and St. Vladimir’s Seminaries in 1989 and received a PhD in Biblical Studies from Fordham University in 1998. He was ordained a celibate priest by Archbishop Avak Assadourian and then began his service in the Eastern Diocese, first at the Holy Cross of Armenia in Washington Heights, NY, then at St. Leon Armenian Church, in Fair Lawn, NJ. Bishop Vahan served as the dean of St. Nersess for a year in 1999 before returning to parish life at Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Bayside, NY. He was consecrated a bishop in 2011 in Holy Etchmiadzin and served in the Diocese of the United Kingdom & Ireland before relocating to the Diocese of France in Paris.
Bishop Nareg Berberian, Primate of the Diocese of Brazil, graduated from St. Nersess and St.Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in 1991 with a Master of Divinity and received a Doctorate of Ministry in Theology and Pastoral Studies at Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA, in 1999. He was ordained a celibate priest by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian in 1992, his first ordination as the primate of the Eastern Diocese. Fr. Nareg served several parishes in the Eastern Diocese, including St. George Armenian Church in Hartford, CT, and St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL. In 2014, he was elected to lead the Diocese of Brazil and was consecrated a bishop.
Both Archbishop Avak Assadourian and Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian serve as members of the Supreme Spiritual Council of Holy Etchmiadzin.