Posted on February. 12. 2019


OCT. 20, 2013

Let us consider for a moment the letter of protest by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian—addressed to his Holiness Karekin II—and its impact on the psyche of the clergy.

According to historical accounts, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem was established almost at the same time as the  Mother See Holy Etchmiadzin. The Patriarchate had its own special position as ecclesiastical/spiritual center in the Hierarchy of the Armenian Church. In an environment, frequently hostile to Armenians, it was able to retain its preeminent position among all other Christian denominations, and because of the politically favorable conditions, was able to become a fortress of enlightenment where our church traditions were kept safe.

However, under ne-political conditions, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is struggling to keep its own traditions, independence and identity, and is ill-prepared to guide new generations of priests.

Today, as a nation, we live under tragic conditions. Our laissez-faire approach to addressing issues and solving problems within our communities puts us face to face with very serious dangers such as dysfunction, corruption, and ultimately, the loss of identity. Unfortunately, however, we have no grasp of these dangers. The theatrical performance of our clergy has found more ground in our hearts than in understanding of the laws, which are the foundations of a healthy church.

Let us examine and understand these laws.

1. The law of the jungle–a place where there are no principles, other than “might       makes right”.

2. The law of nature– inherent balance and regularity between all living entities in nature.

3. The law of the mob– where the accused is judged by the mob and not in a court of   law, and is summarily sentenced to death.

4. The constitution– the law that governs the relationship between the government and its citizens.

5. International laws– those that govern the relationships between countries and     define their duties to each other.

6. Civil law– body of laws which sanction the supreme authority of the state.

7. Criminal laws- those enacted to preserve the public order by defining offenses against the state and public, and imposing a penal sanctions.

Furthermore, there is another incomprehensible and unacceptable condition in life whereby man impugns all laws and creates his own scheme of rationalizations to impose his will upon all others.

Having looked at the various types of law that govern the human condition, how should one regard the relationship between the Holy See of Etchmiadzin and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem? We maintain the public be the judge.

Before analyzing Nourhan Patriarch’s letter of protest, it is important to pay attention to the sentiments and discontent of our readers, i.e., that the relationship between the two patriarchates of Jerusalem and Istanbul is in a state of discord. During the last Jerusalem patriarchal elections, Catholicos Kareken II attempted to interfere and manipulate the situation but was thwarted.

Furthermore, while late Torkom Patriarch was the Locum tenant in Etchmiadzin, he attested to the corruption of the Nersisyan clan and was courageous enough to express his opinions and make recommendations, which were not cordially received by Archbishop Karekin Nersisyan and his clan.

Let’s return to the protest letter dated August 3, 2013, and analyze the impetus for Nourhan Patriarch to officially pen and submit such a letter.

Foremost, the letter was written in a brotherly spirit, a letter addressed to his big brother, Catholicos Karekin the II.

Second was the final decision of the Supreme Religious Council to accept Archbishop Norvan’s resignation from his post as Primate of France. The non-elected and irresponsible members of the Religious Council, did not have the courage and integrity to question His Holiness Karekin the II and under duress and pressure, took the degrading decision to accept the resignation of Archbishop Norvan. What would they think if, instead of Archbishop Norvan, one of them had their own integrity questioned and their spineless “brothers” took such a heartless decision? They would probably curse the day they joined the ranks of the clergy.

It is understandable and only just that a brother should be able to advice his older brother to be lenient and considerate of another brother, even though there are some misunderstandings, and that the latter deserves punishment commensurate with his transgression. But in a situation like this, where there is injustice perpetrated, it is unconscionable to stand by and let a brother be sacrificed and become the target of vengeance. After mentioning in his letter that the decision was “unacceptable and unjust”, Patriarch Nourhan suggests that his Holiness should act with forgiveness towards his younger brothers.

“ Two years ago you tried to convince Torkom Patriarch to elect Co-adjutor  and when Archbishop Aris Shirvanian objected saying that there is no such Article in the Jerusalem Patriarchal constitution, you were furious and declared ‘I will defrock all of you’, and furthermore you repeated the same to me and my answer was ‘Is this how you will threaten every one? Don’t you know anything else’?”  It is very likely that this threat has seriously affected all members of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. Indeed it is very sad, but it reflects a reality, a reality that is unlawful, unjust and non-Christian, and unfortunately this kind of behavior is practiced in both Catholicosates–Etchmiadzin and Antelias.

The last piece of advice given by Nourhan Patriarch, where he says that “it is impossible to bring up and prepare a healthy- minded new generation of clergy under pressure and dictatorship”, is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the church, which is not only widely expressed in the general newspapers, but is also expressed by members of the clergy, who are currently suffocated and muzzled under the dictatorship of the Catholicos.

The bishops that participated in the conference, especially those who grew up in the Jerusalem Patriarchate, knew all these facts, but did not have the courage to bring this subject up for discussion at the Bishops’ conference. What will the young generation of clergy think? One can only shudder to imagine what the impact of that letter will be on the psyche of the clergy.

Some people adhere to the belief that such subjects should not be discussed openly. We disagree completely. It is time to address all issues openly and publicly if we are to believe that the Armenian Church should be governed democratically–of, by, and for the people.

The Armenian Church is becoming dictatorial institution, ignoring all democratic laws and canons. Even though there is a small contingent of humble clergy that opposes these unjust practices, they do not have the power to voice their opinions, and regrettably, are relegated to self-imposed isolation.

Do we have to constantly reiterate this one indisputable truth: that the Armenian Church is the sole force that led our nation throughout the troubled years when we lost our political independence? The Armenian Church molded the spiritual character of our nation and kept our identity in tact to parallel the exercise of our political powers.

Although this is the sad reality of our times, we should, nevertheless, declare openly that some leaders are hesitant to uphold our religious constitution by criticizing the lifestyles of corrupted clergy and admonish them to stay within the boundaries of their vows.

The ultimate authority in the Armenian Church is the Catholicos, who is obligated to uphold the constitution down to its very detail. The absence of such practice is an insult to democracy and the sacred rights of the Armenian people.

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