Is Archbishop Derderian a Spiritual Leader or Ottoman Despot?
Posted on March. 3. 2019
BY APPO JABARIAN EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER/MANAGING EDITOR USA ARMENIAN LIFE MAGAZINE
A few weeks ago, in a seemingly arbitrary decision, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of Western Diocese of Armenian Church, axed an illustrious Archpriest’s spiritual service to the community spanning over forty years. In an April 5 letter addressed to the Parish Council of St. John Garabed Armenian Church in San Diego, Arch. Derderian ordered: “Whereas Rev. Tatoulian has reached the age of retirement (WD By-Laws Ch. 3, Sec. 52); Whereas he has been graciously granted extension upon his request in 2014, now therefore … we relieve Rev. Tatoulian from his pastoral assignment.” Consisting of nearly 100 words, the letter does not present any justification other than the “age of retirement.” A great number of concerned community members agree that His Eminence Derderian’s decision to abruptly end an still-continuing and vitally important spiritual mission by the devoted and much beloved Archpriest Tatoulian is nothing but shocking, unexpected, unjustified and outright illegitimate. Like the saying goes in the world of journalism, “There is always a story behind a story.” A closer look to the story behind the ‘retirement’ story may make one realize that there are too many coincidences to gloss over. One can’t help but wonder, Is Archpriest Tatoulian being forced to retire just because he is 70 years old or because he is opposed to corruption within the church under Derderian? Numerous members of the San Diego Armenian community have raised a series of serious questions that deserve to be answered honestly and openly. There are also widespread concerns over an ‘Angel’ donor’s questionable loan to the church that seems to be designed to cloud the title on a lucrative 4-acre land parcel owned by the church that’s reportedly valued over 10 million dollars. Describing the Relationship Between the St. John Garabed Trust Committee and the Diocese/Primate, a concerned member claimed that “Members of the St. John Garabed Trust – who, under the Parish Assembly, oversee bequests to the Trust and the new property which is valued at more than 10 million dollars – met privately with the Primate in early 2014 and – out of step with the By-Laws process for removal of a Parish Priest – requested that Der Datev be removed as the Parish Priest.” He continued: “In February 2015, in the wake of the November 2014 Parish Assembly (which was illegitimately invalidated), the Diocesan Council dissolved all administrative bodies of the St. John Garabed Parish, with one exception. …. An audit of the Trust Committee’s books and activity was initiated at the request of the first ‘Mediation Committee’ appointed by His Eminence Arch Derderian (which consisted of the chair, His Eminence Arch. Vatche Hovsepian – former Primate of the Western Diocese), Joseph Kanimian (who months later was elected to and became the Chairman of the Diocesan Council), and Antranik Zorayan (then Chair of the Diocesan Council). This audit was, in part, spurred by public requests from parish members for greater transparency regarding the Trust Committee.” The report continued: “Very soon after the audit was initiated by an independent third party auditor, the audit was called off by the Diocesan Council and the first ‘Mediation Committee’ was disbanded. The funds of the Trust Committee have dwindled to almost nothing and individual members of the Trust have made loans to the Trust Fund to take care of pressing expenditures.” Making an interesting revelation, the report underlined: “Early in the process of securing the new land, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian (as he noted in a Parish Council meeting and those minutes reflect) helped to arrange for an ‘Angel Donor’ (Investor?) to pay off an $800,000 note on the 4-acre parcel. The title of this parcel is held in the name of this ‘Angel Donor’s’ Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), and the parish was given 5 years to raise the funds and resume it via an Option Agreement. In the meantime, the Trust Committee disperses $60,000 per year to the ‘Angel Donor.’ This amounts to 7.5% interest, considerably higher than what can be secured through a bank loan. Should the parish be unable to pay back the ‘Angel Donor’ within 5 years (we are into the 4th year) or defaults on one of its half yearly payments of $30,000 (and per the conditions drawn up in an option agreement), the property” can be seized by the “Angel Donor.” Another concerned member Bedros Bedrosian noted: “The actions of the Trust Fund committee members follow very closely in their nature that of the Primate in his recent termination of Der (Archpriest) Datev on the one hand and the misinformation campaign to spin it as mandatory retirement. It has become evident that many people — including, surprisingly, some at the diocesan level — still believe that the new By-Laws amendment mandates that Parish Priest’s must retire at age 70.” His Eminence Derderian was originally brought to power by the very constituents who are entitled to holding him accountable. Gone are the days when the once Ottoman subject “Ermeni Millet” (“Armenian Community”) sheepishly followed its religious master’s orders when in fact it should have been the other way around. A genuine investigation and auditing body must be formed consisting of members of a third party and moral as well as financial wrongdoings must be revealed. It is critically important that transparency be instituted at all Diocesan levels and all responsible individuals, starting with Arch. Derderian, are held accountable for their actions. The Armenian Church is a national treasure that belongs to all Armenians and as such, it must be protected from destructive elements both from outside and within.