The primate of the diocese of Shirak, Archbishop Michael Achabahian, gave the following answer to the question as to whether a crisis exists in the Armenian Church, during a recent interview broadcast over the news program “Arachin Leradevagan” of Armenia’s public TV Channel 1: “Where is the crisis? The crisis is in the minds of some people: there exists no crisis. Certain people have invented some crisis in their heads, and they think that there really is a crisis in the Armenian Church. There is no crisis! Period!” Such is the logic of a high official of the Church who chooses to ignore the reality and wishes to convince us that everything is in shipshape order in our Church!
(https://www.1in.am/2514272.html?fbclid=IwAR0HobJrWTdvn UeaCrneNfflvtMsp-d16-ycCEnoJYYPC94axmKcJRyyAf0 )
It will be self-deception or self-delusion to declare that there is no crisis in the Armenian Church. On the contrary, the Church’s needs are numerous, and the crises among the clergy are multiple. Like an ostrich, Archbishop Achabahian is trying to hide his head in the sand by ignoring the existing crisis.
For the sake of absolute truth let’s make it clear that the Holy Mother See of Etchmiadzin, and the credibility and authority of the Armenian Apostolic Church generally speaking, should not be subject of any negative scrutiny. The Armenian Apostolic Church has been, and is, the granite foundation of our existence, for it has shaped and protected our national identity throughout the centuries of our nation’s history.
In view of the unlawful and uncanonical actions of catholicos Karekin II, the public is protesting and demanding his resignation as head of the Church because for so many years he has been part of the Armenia’s corrupt regime — the ruling party that has plundered the country and continues to do so in spite of last year’s Velvet Revolution.
It is an undisputed fact that during Karekin II’s tenure the country was flooded with alien sects and sectarians while he was busy conducting his multiple personal businesses. It is very easy to blame your own people by maintaining that the reason of the adherence of a wide segment of the population to those sects lies in the poor socio-economic conditions of the country. Was there any time when the catholicos took measures to protect his flock from these sectarians? Was there any time when he devoted himself to preaching the truths of the Gospel and defending the teachings and faith of the Armenian Apostolic Church, of which he is the head and servant as well? Has he forgotten the manner in which the Mormons infiltrated Armenia during Kocharyan’s presidency? Did he ever have the courage to publicly complain against this infiltration and condemn Kocharyan’s actions, just as the Russian Patriarch Aleksis did when sectarians wanted to infiltrate Russia? The answer to these questions is in the negative. He remained silent all the while because he was part and parcel of the conspiracy that generated millions of Dollars.
Unfortunately, during the past nineteen years we became aware of a gruesome reality. Karekin II defrocked over one hundred members of the clergy (I have given the list of those victims in one of my recent articles.) These actions show how vindictive he is. Yet, turning a blind eye to all these realities, Archbishop Achabahian declares that there is no crisis in the Church… This is self-delusion. Let us mention some of the most urgent problems confronting the Armenian Church and clergy today:
1.- Harmonious relations and cooperation between the Hierarchical Sees of the Church.
2.- Infringement on local diocesan regulations by Karekin II and his appointee primates.
3.- Unlawful limitation of diocesan bishops’ rights.
4.- Unlawful marriage (or cohabitation with women) of celibate priests.
5.- Homosexual clergy in the Church.
6.- Ownership of businesses by high- and low-ranking members of the clergy alike.
7.- Accountability concerning all religious and national treasures.
8.- Restoration and revitalization of the poverty vows of the clergy.
9.- Restoration of defrocked clergy to their previously-held ranks.
10.- Recruitment of experienced laymen in diocesan Judicial Councils (“Tadastanagan Khorhoort”).
11.- Supremacy of Law and order, rules and regulations to be applied equally to clergy and lay people without discrimination.
Now, the readers realize what it means to have a dictator catholicos, who during the past nineteen years got away unpunished with ravishing every sanctity and canon with the support and protection of the corrupt criminal leadership of the country. His actions tarnished the faith of the public in the Church and its clergy, who, for personal reasons and gains unfortunately tolerated such an inglorious dictatorship.
Not only the passive attitude of the high-ranking clergy is to be condemned, but the various political parties, educational and other community organizations, and the intelligentsia as well –particularly in the Diaspora– are likewise to be condemned for their silence and indifference. After all, publicly ‘elected’ members of individuals in the community are the ones who elect the catholicos and the Supreme Religious Council of Etchmiadzin.
We live in a very crucial period of the 21st century, especially in Armenia. Therefore we must dedicate ourselves to enhance the awareness and appreciation of those values and cultural treasures that define our unique identity — if our coming young generations, and we as a nation, want to successfully confront all the troubles and challenges that lay ahead of us in the future.
Hence, we ought to voice our constructive opinions without any hesitation, and to emphasize the role of the laity in the life of the Church, not to exclude its right of participating in church and national elections. And we must vehemently refuse the “pre-designation” by “interested parties” of candidates for any position in the Church from the lowest to the highest. The present-day “elections” in our national-religious and educational life bring to memory the notorious elections of olden times, imposed by a separate class of multi-rich influential members of the community called the Amiras, as well as those organized in Armenia during our more recent history by the tyrannical Communist regime, notorious for its voracious appetite for controlling every single minute detail the country’s political, cultural, religious, and social life.
Our people, in Armenia and in the Diaspora, has the right to express its concerns about the Church, the clergy, and reforms in general. If we truly and seriously care about these issues, then we should express our opinion about them without any hesitation, for, if we don’t, we will be part of the problem and corruption that pervade our life both in Armenia and the Diaspora, instead of being part of the solution.
No one should lecture us that Church affairs are exclusively the domain of the clergy, and that the laity has no business whatsoever to be concerned with it. On the contrary, the flock of believers is the Body of Christ, i.e. it is the very Church itself, and the clergy are their servitors by virtue of their calling. Thus to express our views and make constructive suggestions constitutes an imperative if we really care about our Mother Church.
Therefore do not be surprised when the public demands the resignation of Karekin II, because the public considers him part of the previous corrupt regime which monopolized all the resources of the country, thus bankrupting it and never caring about the multitudes who left Armenia by the thousands and migrated to different parts of the world on account of the harsh political and socio-economic conditions of the country. Have we ever heard, at least once, that Karekin the II complained to the authorities about the dire conditions of the country? Did he ever appeal to the authorities to stop plundering the country’s resources and to relieve the horrible conditions of poverty and unemployment? On the contrary, being an integral part of the very same despicable regime, he generously distributed honors and decorations to the corrupt oligarchs… Therefore, how can we expect the public to have faith in his catholicos and a corrupted manipulating clergy?
The lack of an approved Constitution and regulations of the Church led us to disputes and controversy. It was announced very recently that a General Assembly of delegates will be convened, during which Karekin II will attempt to ratify and validate a new “Constitution.” It is absolutely crucial to ask who compiled and edited this new Constitution. Unfortunately these new statutes violate the principles of democracy and tend to establish clerical hegemony in Church. This goes absolutely against the centuries-old rules and traditions of our democratic Church: we have already seen the dark aspect of his dictatorial conduct during the past nineteen years…
What is the point in convening all these assemblies if everything will be decided solely by Catholicos Karekin II? These assemblies (”²½·³ÛÇÝ ÀÝ¹Ñ³-Ýáõñ ÄáÕáí”) should have the power to elect and, if needed, impeach a catholicos and force him to resign. If we do not remain faithful to are national values, then we simply become a corrupted multitude of nomads.
So far we have not been given any assurances that Karekin II, as the “Chief Shepherd” (“Hovvabed”) of his flock, will revert to and execute the historical mission of the our Mother Church. On the contrary, he has always manipulated the Church’s assemblies and councils because there is no transparency and accountability in his affairs: to him everything is business and money… And we know how he met with indifference the massive influx of sectarians into Armenia. He never cared about the migration of our beloved people from Armenia and never offered the oligarchic government, –who oppressed the public and vandalized the country,– any advice or solution to the many problems of our Fatherland.
“It is about time, Your Holiness, that you should rediscover your spiritual values, –if you ever had any! — otherwise defrock yourself and save our Mother Church from total destruction.” (Extracted from a letter of His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manoukian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, dated August 25, 2016, and addressed to Karekin II.)
March 17, 2019, Los Angeles