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Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian was born Sarkis Hovhanessian on November 13, 1963 to Dr. Avedis and Seta Hovhanessian in Baghdad, Iraq. He is the beloved brother of Dr. Simon Hovhanessian, Sarah Hovhanessian and Silva Hovhanessian, and the uncle of Nyrie, Avedis and Nora Hovhanessian.
Fr. Vahan received his Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from the Engineering College of the University of Baghdad, Iraq, in 1985. Upon his graduation, and under the tutelage of His Eminence Archbishop Avak Asadourian, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq, Fr. Vahan pursued his graduate studies in Theology in New York, USA, enrolling at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. In 1989, he received his Diploma in Armenian Church Studies from St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and the Master of Divinity Degree from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, with a faculty commendation on his graduation thesis: “The Council of Shahabivan 445AD: Introduction, Translation and Commentary.” A year later, Fr. Vahan continued his doctoral studies in Scriptures at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, USA. In May 1998, upon successfully defending his doctoral dissertation “Third Corinthians: Reclaiming Paul for Orthodox Christianity,” Fr. Vahan earned his Ph.D. degree in Biblical Studies from Fordham University.
Fr. Vahan has been serving the Armenian Church since his childhood years, first as an acolyte then as a subdeacon, deacon and assistant organist at the St. Gregory Cathedral of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Baghdad, Iraq. Upon his graduation from St. Nersess and St. Vladimir’s seminaries, Fr. Vahan joined the Monastic Order of Holy Etchmiadzin and was ordained celibate priest, Apegha, in 1990. Four years later he was elevated to the rank of Vartabed (Doctor of Faith). The rank of Dzayrakuyn Vartabed (Chief Doctor of Faith) was bestowed upon him in 2006, after successfully defending his Dzayrakuyn Vartabedagan thesis, “The New Testament Apocrypha in the Armenian Church,” in Armenian in the Gevorkian Theological Seminary in Etchmiadzin, Armenia.
Fr. Vahan is the author of numerous articles and books in the fields of biblical studies, theology and Armenian Church history. His doctoral dissertation was published by Peter Lang Inc., in New York (2000). Among his other publications are the book, In Remembrance of the Lord: Biblical Introduction, Historical Review and Contemporary Commentary, commissioned by Abp. Khajag Brasamian, the primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (2008); Exegesis and Hermeneutics in the Churches of the East (2009); and The Old Testament As Authoritative Scripture in the Churches of the East (2010). He is also the General Editor of the Bible in the Christian Orthodox Tradition series for Peter Lang Publishers. By the invitation of His Holiness Karekin II, Fr. Vahan organized and chaired the very first international conference on the Armenian Bible held in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in October 2005.
Fr. Vahan is a member of many academic and ecclesiastical organizations including the “Orthodox Theological Society in America,” “Association pour l'étude de la littérature apocryphe chrétienne,” “Association Internationale des Études Arméniennes,” and the “Society of Biblical Literature,” where he serves as the chairman of the unit, “Bible in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Traditions.”
Upon his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Vahan briefly served at the Armenian Diocese of Iraq in Baghdad and Mosul. In the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America he served as the visiting parish priest of Holy Cross, New York (1991-92), the Acting Canon Sacrist of St. Vartan Cathedral (1992-93), the pastor of the St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, New Jersey (1993-99), the Interim Dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, New York (1999-2000), and the Pastor of the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs (2000-2010). He holds a visiting professorship at the Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey, the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and the Seminary of the Coptic Archdiocese in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. In 2009, Fr. Vahan was inducted in the Theta Alpha Kappa National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology, for teaching excellence.
Fr. Vahan was elected Primate of the Armenian Church in the United Kingdom on the 14th of December 2009 and his election was ratified by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos and Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians, on the 29th of December, 2009.