“I wish you become not only a bishop, but a Patriarch as well!” - Pope Pius X to a young Agagianian
Who he was
Ghazaros (Aghajanian) Agagianian was a Roman Catholic Cardinal whose stature within the Catholic Church reportedly led him to be considered for the papacy twice. In addition to being responsible for the division of international Catholic evangelization, Agagianian was Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church.
Agagianian was born in Akhaltsikhe in the ancient Armenian region of Javakhk when it was part of the Russian Empire (modern-day Georgia); his family were descendants of those who fled the atrocities in the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s. The local Armenian Catholic priest took note of his intelligence and referred him to Rome, where he was later sent to study.
After years of serving as a priest in various functions throughout the Church, he was made a bishop in 1935 and chosen as the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church two years later - this is where he assumed the name Gregory Peter (Krikor Petros). In 1946, Pope Pius XII made him a cardinal, a position previously held by only one other Armenian in the nearly 2,000-year-long history of the Church. In fact, he seemed favored by Pope Pius XII, being the first cardinal appointed during his pontificate, as well as being asked to celebrate pontifical Mass in the Armenian Rite in the Sistine Chapel.
Although information about the proceedings of the papal conclaves are secret, speculation and third-party reports suggest that Agagianian was considered for the papacy twice, once in 1958 and again in 1963. Further reports suggest that he may have been offered the position, but rejected it. Agagianian never became Pope.
Cardinal Agagianian was featured in LIFE Magazine and was called “liberal,” “cosmopolitan” and a “master of eight languages.”
Learn more about him
An Armenian As Pope? (A British Diplomatic Report on Cardinal Agagianian, 1958)