Internation Conference of Armenian Clergy, Vol. 2, No. 2

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view of the Armenian Church

1991         Volume II, Number 2

This issue is dedicated to the memory of

Marie Heros Tchilingirian



International Conference


Armenian Clergy

Coverage – Exclusive Interviews – Commentary

©1991 The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group
(ACRA Group)

Write to:

The Group
P.O. Box 700664
San Jose, CA 95170-0664

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Published quarterly by
The Armenian Church Research & Analysis Group

Editors                    Fr Vazken Movsesian
Dn Hratch Tchilingirian
Art director                Yn Susan Movsesian
Holy Etchmiadzin            Dn Michael Findikyan
Liaison                    Abraham Sldrian
Distributions                Alice Atamian
Electronic communications    Roupen Nahabedian
Photography                Bruce Burr
Administrative Assistant        Jeannie Murachanian
Layout & Logistics            SRP

(c)opyright 1991 A.C.R.A. Group
P.O. Box 700664, San Jose, CA 95170

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WINDOW view of the Armenian Church
Volume II, Number 2 — 1991

Glasnost Without Perestroika_ by Hratch Tchilingirian

The International Conference of Armenian Clergy by Vazken

“Let Us Spiritually Arm the Armenian Church”
Opening Remarks of Conference President Archbishop Vatche

The Current Religious Awakening in Armenia  by Abraham Mgrdtchian

Challenges of the Church in Armenia
Interview with CPF Director, Father Abel Oghlookian

Conference Details and Statistics

“Without Hesitation”
Interview with the Primate of Canada, Bishop Hovnan Derderian

Mission in the Diaspora: Mary’s Example by Vigen Guroian

Book Review




The Armenian Church
Glasnost Without Peristroka?

Deacon Hratch Tchilingirian

Just as we were working on the material for Vol. II No. 2, we
decided to postpone our publication date and focus on the
International Conference of Armenian Clergy, which was held in New
York from July 17-21, 1991.
The International Conference was a major event in the
contemporary life of the Armenian Church.  Its significance
centers on the fact that the Armenian Church in the Diaspora, for
the first time after the Genocide, came together to discuss
issues facing the Church and specifically, to turn its attention
on the events transpiring in Armenia.   Representatives from all
the Hierarchical Sees (except the See of Cilicia) and Armenian
Churches from around the world came together to join
forces. Obviously, the Conference provided the clergy of the
diaspora an opportunity to acquaint themselves with each other and
lay the groundwork for future cooperation.  While the practical
results of the Conference are yet to be seen, we can make
the following observations regarding the Conference:
+Throughout the Conference, the single most concerning issue was
the situation of the Church in Armenia. Internally and externally,
the Church is living in very crucial times. Internally–as it was
pointed out during the Conference–the
administrative infrastructure of the Church needs a serious
reevaluation and restoration. It needs perestroika. The need for
modernization is imperative.  While Armenia as a country is going
through a democratization process, the Church seems to
continue its status quo.  Externally, the Church is faced with the
enormous task of fighting the new religious movements.  Besides
the cults, the Roman Catholics and the Protestants have also
created confusion among the people of Armenia. The
credibility of the Armenian Church is at stake.
+The demographic distribution of the participants attests to the
fact that the Armenian Church in the Diaspora could potentially
become a viable force in itself, if it could bring its energies
and resources together,  as it did at the Conference.
Nevertheless, it is also true that the Church in the Diaspora
could not act on fundamental issues–whether pertaining to Armenia
or the Diaspora–without the consensus of the Catholicos.   As far
as assisting the Church in Armenia, there has not
been any organized effort by the churches in the Diaspora to help
the Mother See–except the efforts of the Eastern and Canadian
Dioceses.   Obviously, this is partly due to the fact that the
churches in the diaspora are hardly meeting their own
needs.  For example, in Argentina, other than the Primate, there
is not a single priest to tend to the needs of the community.
+The Conference made it very clear that the Armenian Church and
all clergy have a tremendous task ahead of them.  The challenge is
enormous,  resources are limited,  personnel is scarce, and time
is short.  However, the Conference took a practical
approach to the issues, and appointed sub-committees who worked on
specific problems.
The Conference was a vivid example of the openness (glastnost))
that has taken place in the Armenian Church. The Independence
Movement in Armenia has not only enhanced this process, but has
necessitated it.  Nevertheless, a reconstruction
(perestroika)  with tangible results has not yet started in the
Armenian Church.  By now–whether we understand politics or
not–we all know that glasnost without perestroika is not enough.
Mikhail Gorbachev and the explosive situation that he has
created is proof of that.   At the Conference, the diaspora clergy
were somewhat surprised at the sincere and candid remarks of the
delegation from Armenia.  Indeed, this was a very encouraging
phenomenon.  It was glasnost  in practice. However, we
do not see any glimpse of perestroika  in the near future of the
Armenian Church.  It is hoped that the practical actions of the
Conference will be the beginning of a new reconstruction, in light
of the new challenges and the renewed mission of the
In this issue of Window,  we present a wide range of material to
highlight the significance of the Conference. In his reflection,
Fr. Vazken Movsesian provides an inside view of the Conference.
The opening remarks of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian
sets the general context of the Conference and  states the purpose
of the gathering. Since the Conference paid special attention to
the situation in Armenia, we have translated the presentation of
Fr. Abraham Mgrdtchian, who reported on the
activities of the CPF and traced the events that lead to the
recent religious awakening in Armenia. While at the Conference,
the we conducted lengthy interviews with Fr. Abel Oghloukian,
Director of CPF and Bp. Hovnan Derderian, Primate of Canada.
The interviews were candid and informative. Fr. Abel’s
interview gives a general view of the events, conditions and
challenges of the Church in A
rmenia,  while Bishop Hovnan underlines the major administrative
and pastoral problems of the Church and the Holy See.  Finally,
Vigen Guroian sets the theological foundations for the Armenian
Church’s mission in the Diaspora.
This issue of Window is not intended for informational purposes
only. We hope that it will serve as a spiritual challenge and
invite our readers  to active participation in the life of the
Church, especially at this crucial historical juncture.

The International Conference of Armenian Clergy

Father Vazken Movsesian

The elderly priest arrived in the Bronx on Monday morning. He
greeted friends and “brothers” he had not seen in years, some
since his days at the seminary.  They had gathered at this retreat
center on the Hudson River to discuss the current trends
in the Church and arrive at some meaningful conclusions.  His
participation at the conference, he knew, was purely symbolic.
After all, he had been through these types of meetings before: the
clergy get together; issues are brought to forum; the
vartabeds give their opinions; the bishops make the decisions and
they leave.  That was the system in the past, and this priest had
no anticipation of a change for this meeting.  He was there as an
But this was not the past and certainly not the system.  The year
is 1991 and the place is New York, at the Cardinal Spellman
Retreat Center, where clergy from five continents gathered to
discuss concerns of the Armenian Church.  Rank and position
were certainly respected but by no means intimidating to the
voices that spoke up.  Each participant was the possessor of a
mutual Calling and this was an opportunity to engage in dialogue
about the most vital issues of the Church they served.
The hot, humid and stale air of a Summers day in New York was
cooled by the air conditioners.  That drift of air into the
meeting room was the extent of any artificial means of movement.
Dialogue was flowing in a dynamic manner during the days of
June 17 – 21, 1991.
This was the first international conference of Armenian clergy.
Over sixty clergymen accepted the invitation to attend.  The
gathering was organized by the Primates of the North American
Dioceses and financed by philanthropist Louise Simone.  The
hierarchical sees each sent representatives yet, to the
disappointment of all, the delegation of the House of Cilicia had
refused the invitation to participate.  Although Antelias’
was deemed important, their absence did not hamper the atmosphere
of brotherly respect and fellowship.
After reading a letter from His Holiness Vazken I, which
officially conveyed the blessings of the Catholicos upon the
meeting, a council was elected to run the meeting.  Abp Vatche
Hovsepian was elected president of the assembly, along with Abp.
Zaven Chinchinian of Egypt, Bp. Mesrob Krikorian of Vienna and Bp.
Khajag Barsamian of the Eastern Diocese.  Abp. Hovsepian’s
comments addressed various issues that are pressing for answers.
Many of his points became the focus of subsequent
discussions during the week.
The theme of the first two sessions was the spiritual awakening
in Armenia.  Bishop Barkev Mardirossian and Father Abraham
Mgrdtchian presented an overview of the Church’s renaissance in
Armenia.  There was no effort to hide the fact that the
Church is ill-prepared to deal with this “spiritual awakening.”
Today in Armenia, not only can churches be renovated, but new
churches may be built.
Bp. Barkev answered many questions from the clergy, mostly about
the political climate and situation in Kharabagh, especially in
regard to the relations of the Church with the Armenian and
Azerbaijani governments.  Bp. Barkev was thoroughly
convinced –ironically, a conviction which was difficult to
transfer to this audience –that the only hope for salvation would
be from God.
The discussion intensified when the issue of cults in Armenia
surfaced.  The Church finds itself in a very competitive
environment.  What began as a means of dealing with grief in
post-earthquake Armenia, has now become a battle to “win souls.”
Perhaps the greater battle is against Armenian Christian
denominations.  The Armenian Roman Catholic Church and Armenian
Protestants have set up camp, challenging the Armenian Church in
its once exclusive domain.  With cults, the opposition is easy
to target. However, people who are re-awakening to the Christian
message, find it difficult to comprehend the differences between
Christian denominations.
The struggle with cults is parallel to the situation in the
diaspora.  Modern means and media are utilized by these newly
arrived groups, while the Armenian Church is limited by primitive
means.  Furthermore, the propagation of non-Armenian Church
groups is a thorn upon the blossoming rose of freedom.  We in the
diaspora are pinched –and more often than not wounded — by this
thorn daily.  It leads us to question the value of the diaspora’s
advice to Armenia. Inherent in any democracy is the
right to the freedom of conscience.  While we may hope for a
relationship between Church and State as is enjoyed by the Church
of England, the right to worship elsewhere is still a guarantee of
English citizenship.
Participants at the conference were eager to voice their concern
over the expansionist goals of Christian denominations.  Protest
to the Vatican, to Etchmiadzin and to the government of Armenia
were seen as a means of
repressing their progress.  Yet, the worker in the field, Fr.
Abraham, advised, “If you want to do nothing, then write letters
of protest.”  The battle of the Church in Armenia cannot be won by
legislation, but only by providing for the spiritual
needs of the people.
Bishop Mesrob Krikorian of Austria addressed the conference about
the spiritual awakening in the diaspora.  He began his speech with
a candid question, “Is there or isn’t there a spiritual awakening
in the diaspora?”  The Church in the diaspora is
not uniformed and therefore, not easily defined by
generalizations.  For instance, over the past few decades a number
of Armenian-American men have been moved to enter the priesthood.
Yet during the same time period, Bp. Mesrob cannot recall even
one Armenian in Europe accepting the call.
Subsequently, various papers were presented by a number of
clergymen (see middle pages of this issue for a list of
presentations).  Six sub-committees were formed, headed by a
president, to explore issues in the Church.
1) Relations between Church and State: Bp. Voskan Kalpakian
2) Christian education in Armenia: Bp. Hovnan Derderian
3) Denominations and sects: Bp. Mesrob Moutafian
4) Unity of the Church: Abp. Zaven Chinchinian
5) Youth movements: Bp. Kisag Mouradian
6) Liturgical issues and the Book of Rituals: Bp. Aghan Baliozian

The deliberations of these sub-committees as well as the
conclusions of the entire conference were to be compiled and sent
to the Catholicos.   Officially, the conference held the status of
a consultation.
To a Church in need of emergency care and attention–whether in
Armenia or in the diaspora–this conference was a positive sign
that help is on the way.  The fact that the problems facing the
Church were openly and candidly brought to forum is a
major achievement and certainly the first step toward recovery.

Repent, be Baptized and Commune
Father Vazken Movsesian

The soft-spoken yet dynamic primate of the Diocese of Artzak
(Kharabagh) Bishop Barkev Mardirossian has been the leader of that
community since 1988.  A young and spiritual leader, who’s rough
beard and strong features give the outward appearance
of a rugged mountain man, is just as tough in his spiritual
outlook for the community he served.  In a mountainous region,
which for the past three years has been actively engaged in a
struggle for freedom, one would have to be physically as well as
spiritually virile to assume the responsibility and mission which
Bp. Barkev has successfully undertaken.
The Kharabagh region has been void of any organized religion
since 1931, when the last primate was exile
d.  Only those over the age of 70 had, until 1988, any
understanding of religion and the function of the Church.
Although 130 monasteries and churches remained in the area, there
were no religious services or Christian education until the
Movement began and His Holiness Vazken I re-established the
diocese of Artzakh.
Two years ago Bishop Barkev was assigned to the diocese. Because
of the rough and dangerous life in the area, he only took
volunteers to serve with him.  He began by systematically educate
the people.  Beginning with the kindergartners, he taught
them the basics — how to pray, how to cross themselves, spiritual
songs and so on.  What happened next was, what Bp. Barkev calls,
the “good conflict.”  The parents of those children protested to
the bishop–not because their children were learning
to pray, but because they, as the parents, did not know how to
pray. They demanded to be taught as well!
Apart from this, he has overseen the renovation of churches.
(They had to receive the building permits from Moscow because Baku
was uncooperative.)  They now have seven operational churches and
five choirs (two children’s) all singing in four part
harmony.  They have purchased cars and buses for transportation.
The priests and workers of his diocese can now better serve their
Bp. Barkev is very modest about his activity in Kharabagh. He
does not hesitate to label the activities in the region as a
miracle.  “Only God can save the Armenian people now,” he
exclaims, “and it is only God that will  save us.” Despite there
being no gas, food, or resources, God’s work has not been
hindered!  It continues in the region — “God provides and God
In the capital of Stepanagerd there is no church.  They use the
local auditorium which they fill beyond capacity with the all
faithful singing the Divine Liturgy and other services.
They have two organizations which help the primate in this
spiritual work — one is the Kutootiun Benevolent Organization and
the other is the Brotherhood (as is operational in Beirut and now
in the United States) who bought the Bibles for
distribution among the people. The Artzakh Diocese is now
publishing educational material, including a newsletter called
KANTZASAR.  The publication focuses on liturgical, feasts,
architectural and dogmatic facets of the Church.
However, not all is bright.  On November 21, 1990, the Azerbajani
government decided to close two of the monasteries.  The militia
fired on the churches and the Turks destroyed the Amarasi
monastery.  Despite this set back, Bishop Barkev’s outlook
for the future is bright.  He asks only one thing: PUT YOUR FAITH
IN GOD — HOPE IN GOD! He is mindful of the psalms which state
that it is foolish to put faith in men!  We Armenians have put our
faith in
others for too long and it is time to return and put our faith in
God.  He asks for only one thing for Kharabagh: our prayers.
With a moments hesitation, His Grace recalled two incidents which
have jolted the people of Artzakh.  One occurrence centered around
a 39 year old paraplegic who experienced a miracle and after 10
years of paralysis began to walk.  In the words of
Bp. Barkev, “He repented, he was baptized and communed [through
the Eucharist].”  The day after this miracle and conversion he was
seen in town celebrating with a bottle of spirits.  When people
saw him without his wheelchair, they were amazed and
asked him what he was doing, to which he responded that he was now
looking for a bride.
A similar miracle happened to a girl who was paralyzed for three
years.  After experiencing her miracle she “Repented, was baptized
and communed.”
Naturally, word of these two miracles have spread throughout
Artzakh rather quickly.  Bishop Barkev does not like to elaborate
on these incidents but he says, it attests to the fact that God is
with our people and is working in Artzakh.
The words, “Repented, baptized and communed,” were repeated by
Bp. Barkev as descriptive of those who were being saved in
Armenia.  REPENT: to turn from our sins; BAPTIZED: to start anew
in faith; COMMUNE: to receive and be united with Christ Jesus.
As the diaspora focuses its attention on the changes in Armenia
and is quick to offer help, it would be wise for the diaspora to
be receptive to homeland’s call.  The profound and basic message
of the Gospel is being spread through this troubled
region and there is an unquestionable faith in the power of God.
Bishop Barkev has presented the message to his people– a message
which needs to be echoed throughout the world and especially in
our heart:


Let Us Spiritually Arm the Armenian Church
Opening Remarks of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian
President of the International Conference of Armenian Clergy
June 17, 1991 P New York

(Translated by Window staff from the Armenian text)

Dear Brothers:
With heartfelt and warm feelings, we welcome you all to this
For the first time in the recent history of our church, and in
our memory, a conference like this is being held outside of Mother
Armenia, with the blessings of His Holiness Vazken I, Catholicos
of All Armenians and by the
initiative of the dioceses of the United States and Canada, and
their respective primates.  We open this conference with the
participation of the representatives of the Mother See of Holy
Etchmiadzin, St. James Brotherhood of Jerusalem [Patriarchate
of Constantinople] and with more than sixty clergymen from all
over the world.
Naturally, there is a purpose for this gathering and that purpose
does not pursue any personal goal.  Instead, as clergy of the
Armenian Church concerned with the spiritual, national,
educational and cultural circumstances of our people, as well
as, the social and political conditions, we will attempt, over the
next five days, to reflect on and to scrutinize the present
situation in Armenia and the diaspora.  And with prayer, the power
of the Holy Spirit, and the exchange of ideas and
opinions, we will try to find a cure, with the intention of
progressing the thoughts expressed in the prepared presentations
and at the conclusion of this conference, we will issue statements
and appeals to our people.
We believe, in order to keep the Armenian Church in her primary
mission and to further brighten her future, we need clergy who are
aware of their calling, dedicated and prepared.  These will be the
ones who will keep alive the Armenian faith,
language and traditions–the ones who will give direction to the
So then, our first obligation is to spiritually arm the Armenian
Church.  We seldom emphasize, and it is worth repeating again,
that the Armenian Church and Nation, seventy five years later,
still bears the wounds of the Genocide in their blood,
mind and soul.  Along with the hundreds of churches and historic
monuments, we lost hundreds of clergymen, which created a large
void in our churches.  Those who escaped the massacres, were
dispersed around the world.
To come out of this horrible situation, our church and people,
within the limits of their abilities, have tried to dispense
spiritual, educational and national nourishment to the survivors.
We lacked the financial means and the needed number of
candidates for the clergy.  In the diaspora, particularly in the
Middle East, political instability has been the primary reason our
monasteries were unable to continue their natural and successive
spiritual mission.  To a certain extent, insecurity
prevailed and the future did not look bright.  After rising with
our strength in the Middle East, we sent clergy to Europe, the
United States, China, later to Australia and elsewhere.  These
clergy who had received monastic training and education,
had tremendous difficulties in organizing communities.  Our
monasteries did not have the capability to produce married priests
for pastoral positions.  Therefore, the celibate monastic clergy
began pastoral service to fill the needs [of the Church].
In the Mother land, the situation is completely different.
Because of the Communist rule, our people end
ured a second 1915–this time a spiritual massacre.  What
the Turks were unable to do to us spiritually and morally, the
Soviet government, with its strict and anti-religious preaching,
lead our people toward atheism.  This happened despite the fact
that Holy Etchmiadzin remained firm, and some churches
were in operation.  The situation was the same throughout the
Soviet Union.  Now that religious freedom has embraced the Mother
land–which has facilitated the free advancement of the mission of
our ancestral orthodox faith–we stand before great
difficulties, because once again, we do not have adequate numbers
of clergy to instruct our people.
On the other hand, the cults are invading and changing the tender
minds of our people and  are alienating our children from the true
faith.  It seems that the  Uniate period is being repeated.  Yet
we are glad, that the Mother See of Holy
Etchmiadzin, under the supervision of the Catholicos of All
Armenians, has established a Center for Propagation of Faith,
which is engaged in serious work.  Naturally,  Holy Etchmiadzin
needs the assistance of each of us.  For your information, the
dioceses of the United States and Canada have already developed
programs to accomplish this mission. I am sure, every diocese
will, to the best of their ability, extend a helping hand to the
Mother See.
After this brief introduction, we consider it important to
address the issue of contributing to the contemporary spiritual
welfare of the faithful.  In the diaspora today, our people no
longer live in closed confines or isolated villages.  The
circumstances of life have changed.  To succeed, we are forced to
learn and speak the language of our adopted countries.  We live
according to the prevailing customs.  There are preachers of
different religions, different churches of Christendom, as
well as, cults, whereby utilizing modern means, such as
television, radio, the press, visitations, promises of monetary
gain, and political outlooks, try by all means to attract our
people. Our life is a perpetual struggle.
Christ sent His disciples as sheep among wolves.  We too, today,
are sent among wolves. Our numbers are small and in the tides of
this world, we must struggle to keep our faith and nationality.
Therefore how is an Armenian–born in a foreign land,
who does not know his mother tongue, does not attend Armenian
school, and in the case of many, one of the parents is not
Armenian– to keep his ties with the Armenian Church people?
This question gives rise to the issue of the language of the
service and sermon.  We cannot expect the person in the
circumstances described above–Armenian or part Armenian–to be
able to receive Armenian nutrition and be tied to the Armenian
Church.  The transitions are unlimited.  In the Middle East,
because of the political situation, Armenians in large numbers
have moved to America, Australia, Canada and Europe.  From Baku
and other regions of Azerbaijan, Armenians have immigrated to
America and they do not know the Armenian language.  They have
formed small
communities in themselves.  We all know how difficult  is the
preservation of Armenianism in large communities.  It is much more
difficult in these new communities.
Thus, we realize that there are many serious questions in regard
to the reawakening of the Armenian Church and people, which need
consultation and decisive  steps.   We will suffice by just
enumerating a series of vital  issues, which in our
opinion, can serve as topics of discussion:

+The issue of the Constitution of the Armenian Church, in which
the following must be seriously considered:
a. Election of the Catholicos of All Armenians
b. Election of a locum tenens of the Catholicos of All Armenians.
c. The jurisdiction of the hierarchical sees
d. The authority of the Supreme Ecclesiastical  Council
e. The relationship between the Catholicos of All Armenians and
the dioceses and related problems
+Methodic gathering of the National Ecclesiastical Assemblies
+Regular and periodic meetings of the Synod of Bishops
+Assisting the Mother See and the Hierarchical Sees
+Preparing clergymen
+Relationships among dioceses
+Regional dioceses [re: Archdiocese) and diocesan bishops
+Preparation, publication and translation of liturgical and
theological books
+Religious education books
+Revision of services and participation of the faithful
+Preparation of educational tapes
+The status of “free lance” clergy
+The requirements for ordination
+Marriage for clergy
+Divorce of clergymen
+The conditions for defrocking a clergyman
+Ordination of women to the diaconate and  priesthood
+Relationship of the Armenian Church with the Armenian Catholics
and Protestants
+Having various versions of the Divine Liturgies
a. For feast days
b. Regular Sundays
c. For Summer seasons
(taking into account the liturgies of St. Basil, St. John
Chrysostom and others)
+Reciting the liturgy [vs. canting]
+Use of non-Armenian music
+Re-evaluation of canons related to marriage
+Inter-religious marriages
+Validity of civil marriage
+Cohabitation without marriage
+Conceiving out of wedlock
+Adoption: age, race, color
+Counterceptives and Abortion
+Second remarriage
+Minimum age for marriage
+Infant baptism
+Adult baptism
+Status of the godfather
+Place of baptism
+The Armenian Church’s position regarding the rebaptism of a
baptized member in another church
+Reinstatement of holy orders upon  defrocked clergymen who have
good characters.
+Resignation of celibate priests, marriage and their status to
remain married priests.

We bring these issues to your attention for consideration. As we
stated earlier, this convocation is the first in its kind.  We
think, that serious consideration should be given to making this
an official body.  Moreover, we hope, that during the
course of these meetings, various subcommittees would be formed or
appointed, as necessary, which would in turn complete their
designated responsibilities and perhaps in a  few years, we can
re-convene, review our accomplished works and accordingly
make decisions for the benefit of the Armenian Church and people.

Thank you
Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian
Primate, Western Diocese



Father Abraham Mgrdtchian
Presented at the International Clergy Conference
June 18, 1991 P New York

(Translated by Window staff from the Armenian text)

The issues that I will be presenting today are familiar to most of
you in one way or another.  My intention in presenting this talk
is to give you, the clergy of the Diaspora, an overview of the
religious, ecclesial and religio-cultural awakening in
Armenia.  Moreover, I will outline the development of the national
awakening and how we should unite our efforts in finding new ways
of operating in light of the present reality.
The Kharabagh Movement, the Earthquake and subsequently, the
Independence Movement, in the last few years, have fundamentally
affected and changed the internal political posture, as well as,
the internal administrative
and economic system and the national ideology of the Armenian
people.  This, indeed,  has created a new process of national
self-examination and self-assertion.  This new self-understanding
has given rise to self-criticism, a search for new ways of
conducting business and finally, a determination to be
independent.  Naturally, for a nation who has chosen such a road
for independence, the reevaluation of spiritual values–and
creation of new ones–is very significant.  It was at the starting
point of reevaluation and self-assertion that the Armenian
nation–with the eyes of her soul and call of her blood– clinched
to her Mother Church, to the true faith of her ancestors.  It is
this reality in our homeland that today we are calling the
spiritual awakening of Armenia.  However, the responsibility to
give shape and content to this awakening, together with its
present and future direction, has fallen on the shoulders of the
Armenian clergy.
The seventy years of communist rule has devastated the
fundamental foundations of our national, spiritual, religious and
cultural life.
The Armenian nation, which had preserved its existence through
her church and culture, started to be foreign to its own holy
convictions.  The “white genocide” that was described by Paruyr
Sevag continued until 1988.  But in 1988 the unexpected
happened, as if the Armenian nation instinctively realized and saw
her frenetic situation.  The Opera Square [in Yerevan] became the
theater where the Armenian nation was remolded and it received a
new quality.  And the expression of this new
quality and perception was the declaration of independence last
August.  The newly formed national government turned its attention
toward the national church.  Today a close cooperation has been
created between church and government. It has become
natural to see the President of the republic or other government
officials, during major holidays, at the Mother Cathedral of Holy
Etchmiadzin.  Complete freedom has been given to the Armenian
church.  Today, in Armenia, we can not only reopen
monasteries and churches, but we are allowed to build new ones.
Soon the government will ratify legislation concerning freedom of
conscience in which the Church has played an important role.
However, we should bear in mind that the republic is
following democratic principles and as such, it is not possible
legally to put pressure on other religious movements.  This
compels us to be alert and laborious.  Unfortunately, many of the
clergy in Armenia see themselves as ritual performers.
Such concepts have no place in the Church today.  On the contrary,
we should expand religious, pastoral, literary, cultural and
educational activities.
It is for these reasons, that in August of last year [1990],
through the arrangements of His Holiness [Vazken I] a Center for
Propagation of Faith (CPF) was established at the Holy See.  The
Center is headed by Fr. Abel Oghloukian.  Fr. Shnork, Fr.
Abraham and Fr. Mikael of Etchmiadzin and Fr. Sebouh of the See of
Cilicia are the appointed
associates.  The Center developed its own course of activity, as
follows:  1) To prepare teachers to teach religious subjects in
middle schools; 2) To give a series of lectures on religious
subjects at centers of higher learning;  3)  To prepare
programs for television broadcasting;  4) To give lecture visits
in various cities and areas of Armenia;  5)  To prepare and
publish books, pamphlets  and articles;   6) To organize Sunday
This plan was presented to His Holiness in detail.  During the
ensuing nine months, though the staff was few in numbers, the
Center was able to accomplish what it had set out to do.  First,
in Yerevan and Etchmiadzin, by a special selection
process, three hundred fifty liberal arts teachers were gathered
for instruction.  With each group we had six-hours-a-week of
classes at St. Sarkis Church in Yerevan, the Diocesan headquarters
and at the Youth Hall in Etchmiadzin.  The courses that
were taught were theology, Armenian Church history, Church
history, introduction to the Bible, New Testament and Religious
Education.  Since such a program was first in its kind and there
were no preexisting textbooks, lectures were being prepared
individually for each class.  Some of these lectures were later
published in the media.  Lectures on religious topics were also
organized at various schools in Yerevan and Etchmiadzin;
periodically lectures were given at Yerevan University and other
Institutes.  Also,  Armenian television and media extensively used
the educational and religious material that were prepared by the
Center.  Two television programs were set up, Khoran Looso (Alter
of Light), twice a month and Geeragameditz Khosk
(Weekend Message), once a week. Presented in these programs were
sermons, biblical stories and interpretations, explanations about
religious and national holidays, liturgical services, sacraments
and stories from Armenian Church history.   A number
of clergy from the diaspora participated in these broadcasts.  The
Center also paid special attention to the media and publications.
As such, articles, research papers, reflections and responses were
published in various newspapers of the country.
Here, I would like to specifically mention the major
contributions of His Grace Bishop Hovnan Derderian [Primate of
Canada], who in response to the requests of the Center, printed
and shipped over four hundred thousand prayer cards (decorated
Armenian miniatures), pamphlets, booklets, sermon books and
religious educational literature.   These materials were
distributed by the Center throughout Armenia–from Ghapan to
Spitak, from Artzakh to Georgia and to the Armenian population
in the area of the Black Sea.  The publications of Bishop Hovnan
are known throughout Armenia.  Similarly, the publication of the
sermon of St. Gregory the Miracle Worker by the Eastern Diocese
was widely distributed in Armenia.  The Eastern Diocese
also donated a computer for the needs of the Center.  Here, on
behalf of the Center, I would like to express our thanks and
appreciation to Bishop Hovnan and Bishop Khajag [of the Eastern
Before I conclude my remarks about the Center, let me just say
that during the past nine months, despite our limited resources,
the Center, through dedication and determination, has accomplished
a lot.  The proof is the fact that many high level
institutions, news agencies, publishing organizations, and
particularly the Ministry of Education in Armenia are consulting
the Center for advice on religious and church matters.  It is true
that the Center had many difficulties and struggles, but
we are consoled by the results of our activities and work.
However, it is absolutely necessary that in Armenia, the pastoral
evangelization and religious-cultural activities are developed and
spread on a much wider range.  This is the imperative of
the day.  If we are late, things will be lost without the
possibility of recovery.  In recent years, Armenia has become a
competitive ground for  Catholics, Protestants, cults and
ideologies of foreign religions, who have major and organized
systems and resources, such as literature in massive numbers.
They are very successful in their proselytization and are
expending on a daily basis. The Catholics, Protestants, Krishnas,
Pagans, and other religious movements are leading our people
to a definite destruction.   In view of our glorious history and
realizing the consequences of these disastrous movements, we, the
Armenian clergy, cannot remain passive.  If we want to lead our
people in its entirety by the Gospel of Christ, if we
want to have a strong Church, if we want a free and strong
fatherland, then we should utilize every mean and self-sacrifice
to stop the spiritual break up of our people and its disastrous
course.  It is disastrous, because the Catholic
proselytization is removing from the hearts of our people the
spirit and faith of our forefathers. Protestantism is depriving
the Armenian from his national church.  The cult movements are
distancing our people from the true God that our people have
believed in for two thousand years.   And altogether they are
alienating the Armenian from his national traditions and unique
culture. Isn’t this a new “white genocide?”
Beautifully published religious literature, abundant financial
resources, and high compensations are some of the deceptive ways
by which the foreigners are operating in Armenia.  I am convinced
that is issue concerns us all.  Two priests from the
Eastern Diocese were sent to the Holy See to assess the situation.
They became familiar with the religious and ecclesial situation,
they had meetings, gave lectures, and together with the CPF, they
formed a plan which will be implemented by the
clergy of the Eastern Diocese of America.  According to this plan,
the following are being formulated: short and long term clergy
visits to Armenia to organize lectures, Sunday Schools and camps,
and to work with the local clergy on pastoral and
evangelical activities.  We hope this project will soon be
through the continuous efforts of the Diocese. It is imperative
that other Dioceses and capable clergymen also express their
practical adv
ice on this issue.
There are several avenues by which we can develop the spiritual
awakening  in Armenia–in a true Christian and national sense.
When we look at the fifteen hundred year old history of our
people, it is very clear that during difficulties, invasions,
religious and cultic movements, and exiles there were two active
functionaries that emerged: the Church and the national culture
that was developed in monasteries and religious institutions.
The first requirement for the perpetuation of the church
is the preparation of the new generation.  In recent years there
has been much talk about this.  His Holiness is also concerned
about this issue, as well as, those who are concerned about the
future of the church.  It is true that in recent years
there has been progress.   However, in my opinion, in order for us
to be more effective, it is necessary that well prepared and
dedicated clergy teach at the Seminary [of Holy Etchmiadzin].
Also, our primary work should be to educate hundreds of
lay teachers in this institution.  It is impossible to leave this
enormous responsibility on the shoulders of a few clergymen.   The
second requirement is to separate the students of the Seminary
from the populated environment of the Mother See [of
Holy Etchmiadzin].  Perhaps this problem can be solved with the
return of the building of the Kevorkian Seminary in the area.  As
for the new educational centers in Sevan and Haghpad, they were
designed to prepare students for the [Etchmiadzin]
Seminary, [rather than becoming self-supported seminaries
The second important factor in preserving the nation is the
national culture.  There is progress in this aspect too: the
formation of a youth group at the monastery of Khor Virab which
consists of teachers and educators from the Ardashad and Ararat
regions.  They are publishing the now famous religious weekly
“Gavit” and organizing lectures for their members.  Also, the ten
member editorial group organized by Bishop Barkev of Artsakh has
embarked on tremendous work. Other church groups are
functioning out of the Diocesan Center in Yerevan.   This progress
is very pleasing.  We should not forget that during the most
difficult times of our people and church, it was our monasteries
that, through much sacrifice, developed our national
culture. The role of our holy ancestors in creating a unique
culture is undeniable.  Our ancestors were well aware that more
than the daily bread, it was the church and culture that preserved
the nation.  Today, if we were able to understand and
transmit our Medieval unequaled culture–if we were able to
re-familiarize our people with our Saints–then cults and other
foreign beliefs would not find a place among our people.
Considering the history of centuries, it is my sincere belief that
it is only through underlying our national and religious culture
that we can
develop, strengthen and unite our nation as a whole.  It was with
these convictions, that two years ago, the Momik Youth Association
of Armenian Christian Culture  was founded.  The Association
consists of artists, miniaturists, painters, literary
individuals,  and editorial staff of the “Momik” publication.  The
Association intends to bring together creative individuals as well
as apologetics of Armenian Christian culture.   Already, a group
of writers and translators–among whom are
professors from Yerevan University–are working on the texts of
medieval Armenian religious literature.  On the other hand, the
artists are preparing a unique Armenian Christian exhibition.  The
miniaturists are preparing an Armenian children’s
Bible with paintings that follow the style of Armenian medieval
miniatures.  The Association has many plans and its activities are
quite tangible.  Upon the request of the Association, on April 15,
[1991], the government of Armenia gave official
recognition to its by-laws.  Subsequently, the Association was
given offices and a exhibition hall, by a special decision, near
the Opera House in central Yerevan. As the President of the
Association, I assure you, that the members, with much
dedication are working diligently to put the national reawakening
on national foundations, to save our people from various foreign
ideologies and teachings.
Finally, by utilizing the vast resources and opportunities, we
should reassign the church the mission of rebuilding our national
culture.  As it is the case in both Armenia and the Diaspora, in
order to achieve the expected results, it is
absolutely necessary that we combine our efforts and resources.
May the Lord help us–with the faith of our forefathers and their
undying legacy–to lead the people entrusted to us.



An interview with Father Abel Oghlookian
Director of the Center for the Propagation of Faith
Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia

Conducted in New York by the Editors of Window

WINDOW: Would you give us a general overview about your work and
the CPF.
FR. ABEL: The Center for Propagation of Faith (CPF) is a
department of the Mother See, as established by His Holiness the
Catholicos. As the other departments of the Mother See, such as
the seminary, the CPF is a separate department.  It was founded
because of the new spiritual awakening in Armenia.  It was formed
so that the Gospel message and
Christianity could be preached and spread among our people in
Armenia. Its fundamental purpose is to evangelize.
While the government of Armenia has expressed an empathy to teach
religion as a subject in schools, I should note that there are
some technical difficulties.  First, we have a problem of text
books, which are practically non-existent. To this end,
we are working with the Ministry of Education, which is providing
us with the necessary and relevant information, for instance about
the laws regarding this project.  We are now preparing religious
text books for grades 1 to 11.  However, we cannot
prepare these books overnight or prepare and secure enough
teachers.  For instance, in Armenia, in order to teach religion in
all the public schools, we need 5000 teachers.  This is an
impossibility.  At the very least, it will take 10 to 15 years
to prepare this many teachers.
We have come to the conclusion, that at least for the time being,
as an interim measure, we must incorporate the subject of religion
with the subjects of Armenian history and to a certain extent with
Armenian literature.  For instance, a few years
ago, in Armenian history courses, they would not acknowledge the
entry of Christianity into Armenia, or mention the corresponding
facts of history of that process.  Mesrob Mashdotz was responsible
for the invention of the Armenian alphabet only.
They would not explain and/or emphasize the reasons.  He invented
the alphabet so that the Gospel, the Holy Bible, could be preached
in Armenian.  Therefore, our plan is to incorporate the religious
history with Armenian history.  As I said, we are
doing this as a stop gap measure.

WINDOW: How are your efforts accepted by the general public,
especially by the youth, who have been brought up for many years
as atheists?
FR. ABEL: I would like to compare it with the West.  I cannot say
anything about America, because I am unfamiliar with the
circumstances here.  But in Europe, there is a preponderance of
indifference toward religion, the supernatural and the
mystical.  The same is true within Armenian circles,  which have
long since been found indifferent and not interested. But in
Armenia there is a great awakening.  Religion is now being tied
with the national awakening, the national renaissance.
There is nothing which ties us to 2000 years of national history
than our religion, our Christian faith.   Some even appeal to
heathenism to find more ancient ties to our national history.  But
we don’t feel the heathens will find much ground,
because the entire Armenian culture and Armenian
self-consciousness has been kneaded by the light of Christianity.
Therefore, it is not possible to separate one from the other.
The youth show a great interest in this respect.  Their souls are
thirsty for re
ligious nourishment, the supernatural and the mystical.  The only
issue here is that
the instructors must be well trained, present the material in an
accessible manner and be prepared to give correct answers to
questions.  If one is not well prepared, the results will be
disappointing or in the extreme case, will create
psychological complexities and neurosis among the youth.

WINDOW:  What is the current status of the CPF?
FR. ABEL:  There has not been an official announcement yet, but
there exists some degree of uncertainty.  The CPF has its own
staff.  His Holiness is concerned with the new operational systems
which have emerged vis a vis the new socio-political
currents.  New systems are needed to be created, new communities
and parishes must be formed.  So now, he is placing more emphasis
on pastoral work and operations.  While, His Holiness
understanding the importance of the CPF, nevertheless, he gives
greater importance to the parishes and dioceses.  As a result our
staff is sent to different areas to carry out pastoral duties
rather than do the work of the Center.  Obviously, when the staff
is disbanded, then the department will be weakened.
Our request is that the importance of Christian evangelization and
the mission of this department be considered in light of the new
developments in Armenia.  We ask that help and all assistance be
rendered, so that the Center may work for the glory
and building of our Church and our people on a large scale.


As you know, their is a religious awakening in Armenia.  I did
not expand on this idea earlier. This awakening is still an
abstract idea. It has different colors as well.  The cults are
also part of this awakening.  Also the Armenian pagan movement
is a part of this awakening.  But, we understand the religious
awakening as the spiritual rebirth of the oppressed majority,
which is tied with our Church, our nation and culture.  It is
founded on the faith of our Church and St. Gregory the
Of course, the cults and their movements present serious problems
and distress.  They have used different methods to propagate their
work.  Unfortunately, because our Church, or more precisely our
clergy, at this historic juncture are not well
prepared, they stand before an unexpected reality.  Our
difficulties arise from this situation.  Therefore, it is my
humble opinion that, while we need clergy in the parishes and
dioceses,  we need to expand our specific efforts at least in
and in Etchmiadzin. In other words have a group of priests
(Vartabeds) who are educated, familiar with administration and who
have familiarity with the  needs, come together, develop a
program, and plan a working process.
I do not wish to lower the Catholic and Protestant churches to
the levels of the cults, but they are organizing their efforts at
their pace–  specifically, the four denominations of Protestants,
the Hare Krishnas, and the Maharishi’s
Transcendental Meditation.  But the serious problem comes from the
Pentecostals.  The other cults and pagans are careful not to
tangle with the Church.  They want to find solid ground first, and
perhaps later they will go against the Church.  But
the Pentecostals are directly opposing the Church.  They take
parts of the Old Testament selectively and preach that salvation
is only based on the Bible, not the Church. They oppose the
“madagh.”  They oppose the Church traditions, lighting
candles, etc.
In Yerevan, their gathering place is on a hill, near the Paros
restaurant.  You would think that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount was
taking place.  On television, once a reporter asked what is the
Pentecostal’s position in regard to the traditional
Church.  Their representative replied that they were based on the
Holy Bible and that the Church is not what is made of stone, but
is all those you see assembled on the hill.  And in fact, they do
have hundreds of people who gather for their
meetings.  This should distress us seriously.
My conclusion regarding all this is that there is a religious
awakening and if our clergy, our hierarchy do not organize in a
corresponding fashion and a concerted display of energy is not
shown, then we will not be able to lead our people.  I do
not want to make false prophecies, but the danger is that a
different church will be formed outside of the Mother Church,
driven by inner motivations.  Perhaps, at one point, these cults
will receive a different role and we will have an “Armenian”
church along side the traditional Armenian Church.  This is what
the current situation is showing, if we are not able to properly
understand and deal with this religious awakening. My belief is
that an investigation and analysis of this awakening
should be the responsibility of certain individuals at CPF who
have expertise in this regard.  This should be their sole concern.
This is a serious matter.  Specifically, they should look at the
causes and the effects of the awakening, and suggest
what has to be done.


Along with this, I have to express my happiness to you, and the
happiness of our priests and Brotherhood, regarding the Window,
view of the Armenian Church. We call it “Loosamoud” in Armenia.
If we say Loosamoud in Etchmiadzin, we all know we are
talking about the Window  publication.  The issue in which you
dealt with the Cults in Armenia [vol. II No. 1] is very important.
We read it and hope that it would be printed in Armenian also.  I
already presented to you an official request from
Armenia.  Of course we will be willing to help you with the
translation efforts.    Even if
it takes some time, it is important for that issue of Window to be
published in Armenian.  The publication of Window should be
saluted by all clergy. Considering the situation in Armenia, in
addition to your English version, an Armenian version
should be published under your guidance, direction and editorship.
In Armenia, we certainly need a publication which has the caliber
and professionalism of Window. Especially, the presentation of Fr.
Vazken [at the Conference] on the considerable
use of computers and telecommunications should be available to us
in Armenia.

WINDOW: Bishop Hovnan Derderian has taken it upon himself to have
that issue translated at the Canadian Diocese. We hope to type set
it and do the final editorial work very shortly.


WINDOW: Can you give us some details about the Protestants in
FR. ABEL:  Yes.  The four Protestant denominations that are
organized in Armenia are the Baptists, the Pentecostals, the
Seventh Day Adventists and the Evangelicals. These groups
organized a program in an athletic stadium and  invited Armenian
American clergy from America to preach.  They had gathered about
5,000 people in that stadium.  To see what was happening, I went
there personally and attended this gathering.  I asked those
attending: “Do you know why you’ve come here? Do you know
who has organized this event?” They said, they thought it was the
Church organizing this activity.  Whatever they hear in the name
of Jesus, they think it is organized by the Church.  But the fact
is that the organizers are others, not the Church.
They passed out brochures and Bibles; they exchanged addresses;
they established ties.  This is how they gain converts.

WINDOW:  When you went to this event, did the people know who you
were or were you incognito?
FR. ABEL:  No. I made it clear who I was.  I even told them that
this gathering was organized by different denominations and asked
what they thought about the Armenian Church,  or the advancement
of the Armenian culture or national aspirations.
Whoever I talked to or asked they weren’t really in favor of the
advancement of these Protestant groups.  Some of these Protestant
preachers were speaking against the honor given to the Holy Mother
of God.  They spoke out against “madagh” and the
custom of lighting candles, which is an expression of faith among
our people. So many people were disturbed and uncomfortable.  In
place of our Church hymns, they were playing many undignified
musical selections.  Even the Lord’s pr
ayer and the Der Voghormia were sung in a screaming manner.  I
myself felt a wave of uneasiness.


WINDOW: Let us turn our focus to the practical question of
preaching.  You have a Center for Propagation of Faith, what is
the message, what is the substance of preaching?
FR. ABEL: There are different levels of preaching.  In general,
our goal is to make the people familiar with the Gospel– what is
the New Testament; what is the content of the New Testament; who
is Jesus Christ; who is the Mother of God; what does
Jesus say; what does the Sermon on the Mount say; who is John the
Baptist; who is Matthew, who is Luke, the Synoptics; who is Paul
the Apostle, the Letters, etc.–very basic facts that the people
should know.   Until now, the people have not had an
opportunity to know these things.   They have been deprived of
this basic education. They are unfamiliar with the Bible.  For
instance, in regard to the story of the Prodigal Son, we have to
tell them to open the Gospel of Luke, where to find it,
what Jesus is explaining, what is the kingdom of heaven, what is
the coming of the kingdom.  We do this with public sermons,
through television and by visiting the villages,  so that the
general public can hear and be informed.
Evangelization is also geared toward educating the new
generation.  We do this through our efforts in the schools. We
have programs for the elementary schools, as well as, in the
institutions of higher learning.  We have organized curriculums
theology, dogmatics, sacraments of the Church, etc.  Sometimes we
present these subjects to the intellectuals by using their
language.  Sometimes we explain these with very simple language
for the general public, so that they may open their hearts
to the light of the Gospel. We do this from the elders to the
kindergartners. .

WINDOW:  Are your efforts localized in Yerevan, or do other
Dioceses in Armenia avail themselves to your expertise?
FR. ABEL:  All written work that we do is shared.  For all the
major feast and saint days we prepare special
pamphlets–Ephiphany, Easter, Pentecost, St. Gregory, etc. –and
we place in these pamphlets  printed icons of the corresponding
For instance, if it is prepared for the feast of St. Gregory of
Narek, then there is a picture of him in the pamphlet.  Then we
incorporate that with religious text (a prayer or hymn) from the
works of the saint along with a biography.  We print
between 30,000-40,000 copies of these.  We give 5,000 to each
diocese and to churches throughout Armenia, where they pass them
out to the people during the services on those feast days.  On the
feast of St. Gregory of Datev, it was very moving to
see 13 and 14 year old youngsters, taking these pamphlets and
reading them, standing under the walls of the church,   They could
of course take that paper and throw it in the trash, but when they
read it, then that is a major step toward progress
for us. When they know what the feast
of Pentecost is, the feast of the Holy Spirit, then they will
understand their faith better.


WINDOW:  Could you tell us about the movement in Khor Virab?
FR. ABEL: Yes.  A few years ago, Fr. Mkhitar, the priest at the
Monastery of Khor Virab, was able to organize a church youth group
in the Ardashad and Mirtzda areas.  The group is consists of
educated young people, who are mostly university
graduates.  To the best of our abilities, the CPF assisted this
effort in every way, so that they could stand on their own feet.
Every Wednesday, we send someone from the CPF to Khor Virab to
give a lecture or a presentation.  Sometimes, when we
have visiting clergy from the diaspora, we make every effort to
take them there to speak.  Now, this group has a
religious-cultural newspaper called “Kavit.”   They also published
their first booklet, Barouyr Sevag’s “Andib Namagani.”  These
enthusiastic young people produced the whole publication by
themselves– from typesetting to binding–through their own
efforts and they sold it for a nominal amount to cover their
Aside from Khor Virab, there are other small groups which have
been organized throughout Armenia.  Of course, the CPF assists all
of them.  The main purpose of the CPF is to make sure that the
national, cultural and spiritual awakening takes place
in the traditional and beautiful nest of our people.

WINDOW:  Are these grass roots movements?  Where do these feelings
for the Church come from?
FR. ABEL:  These feelings emanate from the spiritual awakening in
the country.  When there is a clergyman like Fr. Mkhitar, who
takes the initiative and organizes, then he becomes the pastor and
the leader.  It is already an organized group,
operating under the umbrella of the Church. But, there are
hundreds of similar groups, about which we do not have any
information, but we know they exist.  Anyone can pick up a cross,
hold a Bible and organize a group. There is a similar group in
Hogtemberian, in Arshaloys and in Gosh. These groups stand up with
false teachings and proclaim themselves as a Church.  Since the
people have a thirst for this spirituality, they think it is the
right way and they start to follow them. These groups
should to be organized under the umbrella and auspices of our
Church. When these groups become large and we loose control over
their teaching, then they become another reality, about which we
can not speculate yet.  As I said earlier, besides our
Armenian Church, if this trend continues, there will be another
Armenian Church which has no ties to the Mother Church.


WINDOW:  How relevant is religion to the day-to-day lives of the
FR. ABEL:  This is a separate question which needs study. But in a
general way, this is an existential question.  When such a
political and economic situation is created, as it is in Armenia
today–when people are disappointed with the political and
economic prophets and leadership–then they begin to put their
only hope in the living and real God, who exists above all the
standards of man and above the material realities of life.  God is
not material, He is a spiritual, living energy, a
reality, with whom our fathers have spoken in Armenian and have
given the name “God,” [Asdvadz].  This is the faith of our
fathers.  They have put their only hope on that Reality who lives
among our people, lives in our Church and leads our people
and protects the existence of our people–despite all kinds of
atrocities and dangerous situations.  Throughout our history, God
has protected us, whether in disaster or in political and economic
difficulties of Armenia.
For our people, the Church and religion is a question of
liberation. It is liberation theology, however, not the way it is
understood in Latin America.  In the case of the Armenian people
it is not a class struggle .  It is rather a liberation
created on politics and ideology.  It is the liberation from
Marxism, Leninism and political materialism–from the oppressive
and sore reality of man’s soul and body.  It is also a liberation
from what relates to our neighboring countries,
Azerbaijan and to some degree Georgia.

WINDOW:  This pertains to the collective, how  about the
individual?  In other words, does the individual regard himself as
part of the collective experience or does he see religion as a way
of personal salvation?
FR. ABEL: These are interrelated issues.  He is part of the
collective and this understanding is a universal phenomena. On the
other hand, for himself and his family, religion is a source of
optimistic outlook on life.  If there is no faith in God,
then all the strength and energy required to survive that material
life has crumbled.  Therefore, there is another reality beyond
this, that is faith or belief. With this faith man can be filled
with hope, that he must be optimistic toward life, he
must believe in the continuity of life and its eternity.  This is
also a source for man to be filled with love–love toward God–and
that love is based on his love for his friends and others.  I am
hopeful that with this practice, by extending a
hand to one another, by helping one another–if not toda
y, if not tomorrow, then in the  near future–we will be able to
overcome these difficult times and our people will be able to
continue its peaceful and safe existence.

WINDOW: You’ve spoken about the youth, what about the middle aged
generation.  In the past with the influence of Marxism
and atheism, religion has been seen as the sign of the weak. We
see this even in the recent immigrants from Armenia to the United
States, that the Church is really a place for the weak.  Has there
been a change through your efforts in this
FR. ABEL:  The situation in Armenia has changed in a truly amazing
and unbelievable manner.  We do not see any real difficulties on
an ideological ground. At least presently, they accept us with
open arms, they give us the means and they allow
dialogue to take place.  Where faith can be spoken and spread, it
is there where Faith can be propagated .  They have to hear, they
have to be convinced, they have to see the testimony of
people–from the Gospel and from the Faith–so that they can
believe.  This is one of the ways. This is not to say that the
remnants of the past have been completely vanished.  Though there
are still people who are influenced by the ideology of the past,
nevertheless, we do not see a definite opposition to
our work, but perhaps a certain reservation.  That reservation is
natural.  That reservation, instead of indifference, can be turned
to curiosity.  Thus, it is our work and responsibility to break
the ice and fill it with warmth.  The fulfillment of
this responsibility will depend on the ability of the Armenian
clergy.  What was above our abilities in the past, we could not
do, but now we can.  So then, we must do the work.  Of course, if
this is the will of the Lord, and if the Armenian Church
and clergy have the blessings of Jesus’ Cross, then the mission of
the Armenian Church and the work of the Armenian clergy will
undoubtedly be crowned with success. We can do nothing if we are
guided with human capabilities, with human mind and
muscle.  God gives us the blessing through faith, and it is up to
us to use our human capabilities for the service of our Church and
the propagation of the Gospel.


“Without Hesitation_.”
An interview with Bishop Hovnan Derderian
Primate, Diocese of Canada

Conducted in New York by the Editors of Window

WINDOW: What is your assessment of the Center for the Propagation
of Faith?
BP. HOVNAN: The CPF has not yet completed a year’s operation. The
experimental period has shown that the center has a huge
missionary field placed before it–not only in the capital
Yerevan, but even more, in the outlying large and small villages.
Methodically, in a more organized manner,  efforts must
concentrate on preaching the Gospel.
I think the  fundamental work must be diffused during the next few
years, particularly in the villages.  It seems to me that we have
forgotten the villages and the [Roman] Catholic Church is using
the techniques to immediately find ground in the
villages.  Because the villages are not the focus of our
attention–they live in more modest economic conditions–it is
easier to convince them and change them to Catholicism, these are
the children of our Church.

WINDOW: What about Etchmiadzin?
Religion has to be taught in the school systems of the country
and the Church must fulfill its purpose through evangelization.
However, there is a fundamental problem, and I have openly brought
this problem to the attention of the Catholicos
during the bishops’ meeting [March 1991].   I feel that now both
the diaspora and Etchmiadzin clergy, bishops, celibate priest,
etc. without hesitation or embarrassment, must criticize this
problem–and criticize harshly–and must obligate
Etchmiadzin to act with serious responsibility.  The primary fault
is that pastors do not live within their parishes.  [Ed. note: the
word “parish” describes a community organized around geographical
boundaries.  As used here, “parish” does not
refer to the physical church building.]   All these programs, such
as the CPF and its affiliated programs, will fail if parishes
throughout the country are not established in an organized manner.
Moreover, we will fail if the clergy continue to
live outside the boundaries of their own parishes.
Today, unfortunately, Etchmiadzin has turned into a “nest of
clergy,” where the parish clergy reside.   The diocesan primates
in Armenia administer their dioceses by sitting in their rooms in
Etchmiadzin and the priests go once a week to their
parishes.  The few priests who are involved with CPF cannot
evangelize all of Armenia, that’s just impossible. Their work will
be productive only when His Holiness the Catholicos insists on the
most essential changes to take place in the life of our
This is a serious concern, and I will stress it unceasingly. All
efforts will be in vain and they will not succeed if the pastors
do not organize their parishes.  I cannot criticize the laity,
because the laity will learn from the clergy. This
concern of mine, should be the concern of every Armenian
clergyman, every bishop, every primate, whether they live in
Armenia or in the diaspora.  The shortcomings of the Church must
be the concerns of all clergy.
This concern should be spread through your Window, as well as
other newspapers.  You should not hesitate for a moment, on the
issue of whether or not it is right to criticize Etchmiadzin
regarding this issue.  We have to criticize. The time has
come where we have to openly express the real situation to the
public so that the public can criticize Etchmiadzin and the
existing situation.  I am sorry to say this.  Until today, I would
have approached
this topic with caution.  After all, I am a member of the
Etchmiadzin brotherhood.  But, I think the greatest fault will be
not to express ourselves on these wrongs.
In March, at the Bishop’s conference (where there were also
Vartabeds), I spoke about this concern.  This is a fundamental
concern which coincides with the efforts of the CPF.  I am sorry
to say,  but the CPF and its efforts do not receive the
necessary encouragement from certain diocesan bishops in Armenia.
I do not want to dwell on this because those circumstances can
exist within all dioceses.  Today’s reality does not allow for
even the minimum work to be done to this end.  This
hurts the entire mission of the Armenian Church.
WINDOW: Is this a problem of administration?
BP. HOVNAN: They know very well who is supposed to do what. When I
presented this observation to His Holiness, he responded very
naively that he wasn’t aware that pastors do not live within their
parishes or that primates do not live within their
dioceses.  Primates are living outside their dioceses.  A few
times a week they are found within their dioceses.  In Koris, or
Sunik or Shirag, the primate is in his diocese only a few days a
week.  The same is true for priests or pastors.  They are
not permanent pastors, but “visiting pastors.”  This situation
should be corrected from its roots otherwise the work of the CPF
or all other programs within the Armenian Church will fail.

WINDOW: What is their justification?  How can they justify running
a diocese in absentia?
BP. HOVNAN:  They give many reasons.  The main problem is that a
diocesan primate does not take considerable efforts to make sure
that his clergy are living within their parishes [i.e. an
organized church body within a given geographic area].  This
is a question of discipline.  When he, as the primate, does not
live in his diocese, he cannot insist on his pastors to live there
or to establish their families within the boundaries of their
I think the second problem is that the clergy do not feel a
necessity to live within their parishes because they understand
their role to be that of a “ritual-performer,” which is a
fundamental wrong.  Today, Etchmiadzin or any primate or any
clergyman cannot say that they do not know how to establish
parishes or organize formal parish systems. They all are aware of
our system in North America and Europe–where there is
organization, formal administr
ation and the role of the clergyman  is specified.  During the past
20 years, thank God, a multitude of clergy from the diaspora have
visited Armenia, explaining their systems and their work.  Many
clergymen from Armenia have visited North America
and Europe and have seen the kinds of work the clergy are engaged
in, aside from performing rituals.  This kind of dialogue has
already been created.  Obviously, this interaction was not just a
formality.  These exchanges of clergy have been created
with a specific purpose.   I think
that these exchanges over the past 20 years, should have at least
motivated them, at least the individuals, if not the
administrative bodies.    Today, not one parish “system” [dzkhagan
vijag] exists in Armenia.  I have been an eyewitness to this.
Parishioners approached me personally in Yerevan, saying that this
priest who has blessed the madagh for years  has never once
visited me.  He has never once knocked on my door and asked who am
I? What do I do? Do I have any needs? . . . This shows
indifference on the part of the clergy.
Take for instance St. Sarkis Church in Yerevan, which is
surrounded by many residential buildings and homes.  If the
Jehovah’s Witnesses are going without invitations and knocking on
the doors, and advancing their ministry, why shouldn’t our clergy
do the same, I believe our clergy have even more reason and  would
be more welcomed in these homes to propagate Christianity?  No one
will stop them, and I guarantee you that our people will open
their doors with love.  Some people might be
inhospitable, but that is not a reason to refuse such a procedure.
We stand at a crucial moment in the history of our Church, we
either bravely address our shortcomings and do something practical
about it–and I underline the word practical– or else, God forbid
the worse_


Armenian Church Hall
Razed by Turkish Authorities
by Barbara Baker (excerpts)

Istanbul — A church hall under construction next to the Armenian
Church on Kinali Island near Istanbul was bulldozed down without
any warning April 11 and 12 by municipality officials of the
Princes’ Island, who said they were acting on orders from
Ankara, the seat of the Turkish government.
It was not clear if the directive, which was never produced in
written form, originated from the Foreign Ministry, under which
the Turkish Minorities Desk is positioned, or the Interior
Ministry, which controls the Turkish police and security
Local Armenian parishioners who rushed to the hillside churchyard
on the morning of April 11 found city workers using two bulldozers
to knock down the roofed structure.
“We have never encountered such a problem before,” declared
Bishop Mesrob Moutafian of the Princes’ Islands, where some 20,000
Armenians reside or have Summer homes.  “All the Armenian and
Greek churches and Jewish synagogues in Istanbul have built
adjoining halls for their congregations. Through the years, as the
necessity has arisen, they have been repaired and renovated.”
Turkish government officials quoted Public Trust Law #2672, a
1936 regulation still in effect over religious
foundations, as justification for razing the Kinali Island
building.  This law prohibits any of Turkey’s religious minorities
named in the Lausanne Treaty from adding to or repairing any of
their buildings without first obtaining a string of written
permissions from the Public Trust Directorate, the local
municipality and the central government.
“This is such a paradox for a government which says it is
secular,” declared one church member who had seen the demolition
in process.  “The fact is that the church and the mosque are not
equal in this country.”
“We will take legal action.  We have to, it is our duty,” said
Armenian Patriarch Karekin Kazanjian, after the second day of
bulldozing.  “I have never seen such a tragedy before, after so
many years have passed peacefully here for us as a minority
community” The Patriarch continued, “We are not going to allow
anyone to touch this ruined building.. The ruins will be left
there the entire summer, so that everyone can see what has been
done.  This is a small case, but it is a very serious case.”



International Conference of Armenian Clergy
June 17 – 21, 1991

Under the auspecies of His Holiness Vazken I Catholicos of All
Invited by the Primates of North America
with representatives of the
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
the Patriarchate of Jerusalem,
the Patriarchate of Constantinople
and the Armenian Churches in the Diaspora

At the Passionist Spiritual Center
Cardinal Spellman Retreat House
Bronx, New York.

Officers of
the Conference

Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, President
Archbishop Zaven Chinchinian, 2nd President
Bishop Mesrob Krikorian, 3rd President
Bishop Khajag Barsamian, 4th President
Father Krikor Maksoudian, 1st Secretary
Father Oshagan Gulgulian, 2nd Secretary
Father Garen Gdanian, 3rd Secretary

Abdalian, Fr. Tateos (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Aljalian, Dn. Serop (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Altounian, Fr. Shahe (Western Diocese, USA)
Anoushian, Fr. Papgen (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Ashjian, Fr. Arten (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Ayvazian, Fr. Arshen (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Balian, Fr. Asbed (Western Diocese, USA)
Balian, Fr. Yeznig (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Baliozian, Bp. Aghan (Primate, Australia)
Barsamian, Bp. Khajag (Primate, Eastern Diocese, USA)
Bekdjian, Fr. Karekin (Germany)
Chinchinian, Abp. Zaven (Egypt)
Damadian, Fr. Krikor (Turkey)
Derderian, Bp. Hovnan (Primate, Canada)
Gdanian, Fr. Garen (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Gerejian, Fr. Daron (France)
Gulgulian, Fr. Oshagan (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Hairabedian, Fr. Krikor (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Hairabedian, Fr. Yeghia (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Hekimian, Fr. Isahak (France)
Hirkacian, Fr. Partog (Canada)
Hovsepian, Abp. Vatche (Primate, Western Diocese, USA)
Iknadiossian, Fr. Vatche (France)
Jebejian, Fr. Nersess (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Kabaradjian, Fr. Varoujan (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Kalayjian, Fr. Vertanes (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Kalpakian, Bp. Voskan (Primate, Greece)
Kaltakjian, Fr. Ararat (Canada)
Karayan, Fr. Vazken (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Karibian, Bp. Datev (Primate, Brasil)
Kasparian, Fr. Arnak (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Kasparian, Fr. Karekin (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Krikorian, Bp. Mesrob (Legate, Austria)
Maksoudian, Fr. Krikor (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Mardikian, Abp. Dirayr (Primate, Romania)
Mardirosian, Bp. Barkev (Artzakh, Armenia)
Metjian, Fr. Paree (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Mgrdtchian, Fr. Abraham (Armenia)
Mouradian, Bp. Kisag (Argentina)
Movsesian, Fr. Vazken (Western Diocese, USA)
Mutafian, Bp. Mesrob (Turkey)
Najarian, Fr. Haigazoun (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Nalbandian, Fr. Untzag (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Nalbandian, Fr. Zenob (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Nersessian, Fr. Nerses (England)
Oghloukian, Fr. Abel (Armenia)
Papazian, Fr. Diran (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Sarafian, Fr. Mesrob (Western Diocese, USA)
Sarkissian, Fr. Sarkis (Italy)
Semerjian, Fr. Mesrob (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Shirvanian, Bp. Aris (Western Diocese, USA)
Tatoulian, Fr. Datev (Western Diocese, USA)
Tchilingirian, Dn. Hratch (Western Diocese, USA)
Terzian, Fr. Aved (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Vartanian, Bp. Hagop (Legate, France)
Zakarian, Fr. Kegham (Eastern Diocese, USA)
Zeghtchanian, Fr. Anoushavan (Jerusalem)
Zumrookhdian, Fr. Sasoon (Western Diocese, USA)


compiled by
the Armenian Church Research
and Analysis Group
from registered
participants at the International
Conference of Armenian Clergy.


Bishops    25%
Celibate Priests    32%
Married Priests    39%
Deacons       4%


United States        58.0%
Eastern     42%,
Western     16%
Europe            18.0%
Middle East        7.2%
Armenia            5.3%
Canada            5.3%
South America        3.6%
Australia            1.7%


Average Age    49 yrs
Youngest        29 yrs
Oldest        73 yrs

Bishops            50 yrs
ate Priests    43 yrs
Married Priests    56 yrs
Deacons            29 yrs

*The ages of the bishops and the celibate priests are based on the
data printed in the litergucal calendars of Holy Etchmiadzin and
Jerusalem.  The ages of the married priests are based on the
estimates of ACRAG.

Presentations at the Conference

Spiritual Awakening in the Motherland
1. Present spiritual and political situation in Kharbagh
Bishop Barkev Mardirosian
2. The spiritual awakening in Armenia; relations between church
and state; relations of seminaries and churches; cultic movements;
uses of the media; the CPF and current needs
Father Abraham Mgrdtchian

Spiritual Awakening in the Diaspora
Current status of the Armenian Church — unity and diocesan
Bishop Mesrob Krikorian

The Ministry of the Armenian Clergy within the Community
1. Introduction
Archbishop Zaven Chinchinian
2. Youth and the Armenian Church
Father Sasoon Zumrookhdian
3. The Mission and Role of the Armenian Church
Father Mesrob Sarafian
4. Cultivation of Means of Communications
Father Vazken Movsesian

Current Status of Seminaries and the Possibility of a Uniform
1. Introduction
Father Yeznig Balian
2. Seminary of Holy Jerusalem
Father Anoushavan Zeghtchanian
3. St. Nersess Armenian Seminary
Father Mardiros Chevian
4. Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin
Father Abel Oghlookian

Publication of a Journal of Armenian Church Theology
Father Nerses Nersessian

Memorable Quotes
from the Conference:

Protest is a sign of the weak.
–Bishop Hagop Vartanian

If you want to do nothing,
then write letters of protest.
–Fr. Abraham Mgrdtchian

I do not serve the Armenian Church or the Armenian People.
I serve God; therefore, I must serve the Armenian Church and the
Armenian People.
–Bishop Barkev Martyrosian


Mission in the Diaspora: Mary’s Example

Vigen Guroian

On his frequent journeys from Galilee to Judea and Jerusalem our
Lord took special pleasure in visiting with friends. Among these
friends of our Lord were Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.
They lived in the village of Bethany on the road
from Jericho to Jerusalem.  We have mention of this family in St.
Luke’s touching story of Mary and Martha.  St. John also informs
us in his gospel that at the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry, our
Lord revealed his great power over death itself by
raising Lazarus; and visited these friends just before his
triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
But for the moment, I would like to turn to Luke’s story of
Martha and Mary.  It has been a story of enduring interest and
speculation in Christian theology and spiritual reflection.
While they were on their way Jesus came to a village where a woman
named Martha made him welcome in her home.  She had a sister,
Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and stayed there
listening to his words.  Now Martha was distracted by her
many tasks, so she came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me to get on with the work by myself?
Tell her to come and lend a hand.’ But the Lord answered, ‘Martha,
Martha, you are fretting and fussing about so many
things; but one thing is necessary. The part that Mary has chosen
is best; and it shall not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:38-42)
This domestic scene captures how any one of us might respond when
visited by a guest of great importance.  Martha, caught up with
preparing  for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples, hurries to
tidy the house and prepare dinner. “Martha made him
welcome in her home. . . . Now Martha was distracted by her many
tasks.”  Meanwhile, Jesus seated himself and began to teach.  We
do not have difficulty imagining the scene.  Mary and all the
other guests have gathered around Jesus breathing in his
every word.  Martha is left by herself to finish setting the
table.  In the midst of her toil, she grows increasingly angry  at
her sister Mary who she thinks is avoiding her responsibilities.
Thus Martha bursts out, “Master, do you not care that my
sister has left me alone to do all the
work?  Tell her to get up and attend to her tasks.”  But Jesus
refuses to reprimand Mary. He will not command her to help Martha.
Instead, he says, “Martha, dear Martha, there is no need to worry
and become aggravated.  Such lavish preparation is
not necessary. Something simple will be enough.  Your sister,
Mary, has chosen the best repast of all.  Would you take it from
her?  I will not do such a thing.”
Jesus recognized Martha’s good intentions.  It is right to attend
to the physical needs of others, to feed and comfort the weary
traveler, to heal the sick, and care for the less fortunate.  The
story of Martha and Mary immediately follows the
parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of St. Luke. When
viewed in light of that parable, Martha’s behavior cannot simply
be condemned.  She acts consistently with the Samaritan story’s
exhortation to practice charity.  Works of charity belong
to the kingdom of God.  Jesus is the autobasileia, the kingdom in
Person.  Martha’s actions fall short of the demands of the moment
only because she forgets that the physical preparations for the
celebration of God’s kingdom are of secondary not
primary importance.
For Armenians there is a larger lesson in this story.  It reminds
us that there is such a thing as being too concerned with physical
well-being and political survival. Our Lord and his saints did not
value physical and political survival so highly.
The vicissitudes and needs of this life all too easily can
distract us from the ‘one thing [that] is necessary.”  What a
curse the Turk set upon Armenians when he persuaded them through
all the years of the Ottoman captivity and then the massacres
and genocide of 1915 to think in obsessively survivalistic terms.
There is little in this sort of temperament or behavior which
belongs to the kingdom of God.  “For whoever would save his life
will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it.” (Matt. 16:25)
Jesus’ answer to Martha is humorous.  He makes a pun.  But this
is a play on words which instructs and does not merely entertain.
“Mary,” says Jesus, “has chosen the right portion, the best part
of the feast.”  He is referring  in metaphor, not to
the food which fills our stomachs, but to the food which is the
word of God, the spiritual bread of eternal life.  Mary has chosen
to listen to Jesus.  She understands that without this spiritual
food salvation is not possible.
The irony of Armenian life which the story of Martha and Mary
exposes is painful to admit.   The irony is that while our enemies
nearly starve us to death by denying the people earthly bread,
Armenians themselves do much worse by denying themselves
the heavenly breadPMary’s good portion.
As I think back upon my childhood, I am overwhelmed with memories
of grandmothers and great aunts placing in front of me more food
than I could ever eat – fruit and nuts, bread and cheese and
delicious sweet pastries and
candies.  I still can hear them saying to me: “Anoti es. Ger!”
These beloved women by their attention to my small needs were
feeding vicariously all those whom they saw go hungry during the
years of great tribulation at the hands of the Turk.  I am
struck by the pathos of our shared lives. While I will remain
forever grateful for the love and affection given to me as a child
and do not blame those beloved women for trying to make my every
visit and meal a feast – as Jesus did not blame Martha,
still I wonder whether the behavior of these mothers, excusable in
view of their own past, does not also stand as a symbol of our
utter distraction and neglect of the “one thing that is
For in the thirty years since my childhood, nearly all of my
generation, which carries with it such memories of grandmothers
and great aunts, has wandered from the Armenian Church.  The
ChurchPso obsessed with its own survival and Armenian
identity, having been so attentive to provisions of earthly
breadPhas starved its people of the Word of God.  It does not
matter which parish
one visits of  the Diocese or the Prelacy.  All are marked by the
conspicuous absence of the second  and third generations and now
their children. The subsequent immigrations from the Middle East
and Armenia belie the fact that this is indeed a
critical and dangerous moment for the Armenian Church in America.
The pews occupied by recent immigrants are also empty pews,
emptied of the second and the third generations and their
children. Whenever I visit an Armenian parish there is the
haunting reminder of the children who left and never returned
because their church lacked the courage and vision to change and
transmit the tradition in the idiom of the new culture into which
it was cast.
My former teacher, the late Will Herberg, himself a Jew,
dedicated his classic study of religion and ethnicity in America,
Protestant, Catholic, Jew , with these words: To the Third
Generation upon whose return so much of the future of religion in
America depends.
Well, the third generation has not returned to the Armenian
Church.  And the Church is in serious dilemma, despite its
habitual denials.  What a loss it is.  For in my generation and
its progeny there is a near complete recovery from the genocide
of 1915.  In these second, third and even fourth generations the
dreams of the fathers and mothers have come true.  Among them are
doctors, musicians, scientists, business leaders, lawyers and
educators who should have become the lay leaders of the
Armenian Church.  But they are not present.  Their absence is the
terrible measure of how we have misdirected our energies and
avoided attending to the “one thing necessary.”
Martha the Armenian Church has been.  We have kept the feasts, we
have repeated the ancient rituals, and we have celebrated the
nation’s past glory.  But without Mary what is Martha?  Without
the living word of God vibrating in our heads, rushing
in our veins, pounding in our hearts, the
Church is a museum, a repository of heavenly artifacts and ancient
rituals displayed on feast days whose meaning has all but been
forgotten by the participants.
This a gross caricature of what a national church, such as the
Armenian Church, was in its “natural” culture, but can no longer
be in America.  There must be a renewal of mission.  Sadly,
instead of facing the challenge and the new realities of the
diaspora, Armenians have persisted in viewing their church as the
place in which is made present, not the kingdom of God, but the
old world long since disappeared, which although it can be
fantastically projected into the future as a dream or hope,
is alien to the world in which God has placed them to live out
their real lives.  No wonder that for my generation and now their
children the Armenian Church is a strange place, irrelevant to
their lives.
Let us return to Mary for a moment.  Mary’s devotion was not a
private one.  Her yearning was for the kingdom of God and she knew
that the kingdom had been made present in Jesus of Nazareth whom
she could call friend as well as Lord.

Six days before the Passover festival, Jesus came to
Bethany, where Lazarus lived whom he had raised from the dead.
There a supper was given in his honor, at which Martha served, and
Lazarus sat among the guests with Jesus. Then Mary brought
a pound of very costly perfume, pure oil of nard, and anointed the
feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair, till the house was
filled with the fragrance.  At this, Judas Iscariot, a disciple of
his – the one who was about to betray him – said,
“Why was this perfume not sold for thirty pounds and given to the
poor?”  he said this, not out of any care for the poor, but
because he was a thief; he used to pilfer the money put into the
common purse, which was his charge. “Leave her alone!”
said Jesus. “Let her keep it till the day when she prepares for my
burial; for you have the poor among you always, but you will not
always have me.”  (John 12: 1-8 )
Martha served a feast on that fateful occasion before Jesus’
passion.   And so should we when the Lord is with us, when the
kingdom is present among us.  Yet Mary poured out the fragrant oil
of her heart’s desire.  “And the house was filled with
the fragrance,” says St. John, the fragrance of Mary’s abiding
witness to the truth which gives us life and sets us free.
We must pay serious attention to Mary’s example at this critical
moment in the history of our church and the Armenian people. Yet
Mary’s example is not the only model to which we can turn.  We
should be reminded of other women whom our church
venerates and upon whom it bestows the glorious title of saint.  I
am reminded of the witness of Hripseme and Gayne, of Ashken, and
of Nooneh and Maneh. They were Mary’s co-workers.  They were not
content to educate themselves in the faith only, but
sacrificed their
lives to pass on the holy tradition of the apostles to family,
nation and all who would accept the word of God into their hearts.


Mary’s example is not merely an example for women, though we have
gotten used to portraying it that way.  Mary is an example for all
who feel called by Christ and know him as their friend.  Mary was
a visionary.  She recognized that this friend was
also the Lord and Messiah.  She anticipated the awful sacrifice he
would make for her.  And she was willing to sacrifice for his
sake.  Those who labor in the Lord’s vineyard must also be
visionaries. They must look into the future with courage and
truthfulness and the willingness to sacrifice.  I will not avert
my own eyes for the sake of false comfort, from the terrible
failure of the Church to be a mission to the world.  It has
forsaken my generation.  The Lord will judge the leaders who
have failed. The Lord will hold all of us accountable for this.
For we have not loved the Lord enough as Mary did.  Do we dare
sacrifice future generations on the altar of our extreme
ethnocentricism, having turned the Church into a servant of
nationalism rather than a community of Christian discipleship?  In
America the Armenian Church must no longer encourage Armenians to
hide in ethnic ghettos making itself the house into which they
retreat.  Such retreat provides only the illusion of
protection against the massive assimilative forces of a
pluralistic society.  The answer is not total Americanization of
the Church.  But it does mean that Armenians must risk their
identity in order to preserve and renew it.  For too long the Holy
Spirit has been closed out of our churches, barred from entering
by closed doors and stained glass windows.    But we must pull
open the windows, unbar and open the doors,  and let the Spirit in
to blow where it wills (John 2: 7-8).  Only the Spirit
will set us free and give us the courage and vision to discern
ways of change and reform.  We must engage the American order
creatively and translate our church’s universal truth and ethnic
uniqueness into an idiom suited to future generations.
How much sense can the Armenian Church’s relentless efforts to
link the Armenian nation (inevitably interpreted politically by
its people) with the Christian faith make to third and fourth
generation Armenian-Americans? Furthermore, the Christian
nation which St. Gregory the Illuminator founded was strangled  by
the Ottoman yoke and crucified and put to death finally by the
Young Turks.  In Soviet Armenia the Communists made certain the
Christian nation would not revive.  The resurrection of
the Armenian Church in the diaspora is in the form of a spiritual
body. This will be so in Armenia, as well, as autonomous secular
institutions of national life take primary responsibility for the
nation.  The compulsive reiteration of the fact that
Armenia was the first Christian nation becomes the pathetic
testimony that Armenians have not yet come to terms with what
actually happened in 1915 and subsequently in Soviet Armenia.  In
spite of the conscientious commemoration of the slaughter of
the two million we do  not yet believe that with their deaths the
old Armenian world died.  As the disciples who after the
crucifixion could not believe that their leader was killed and
when encountered by Jesus in his resurrected, glorified body di
d not recognize him, Armenians also have have not been able to
recognize the Armenian Church in its resurrected body.  The
Church’s long isolation from the other Christian churches is over.
The era of the millet ended seventy years ago.  The era of
Soviet captivity is ending.  The old survivalism which persists as
a habit especially within the Church must no longer be mistaken
for the”gospel” of Jesus Christ.
Our old ways of instructing the young must change. Instruction in
the Armenian language and the transmission of historical
information which fails to make connections with the living
reality of this culture and its “faiths” is not sufficient to
equip them for the kind of spiritual combat they will have to do
in a society which is not Armenian.  A society  in which nearly
all the supports of Christian faith have crumbled.  We must not be
content with instilling in the young a mere loyalty
to the Church as a cultural institution.  Rather an education in
Christian life as discipleship, witness, and service is required.
The young must be trained not merely to be custodians of ancient
and venerable institutions, but truly the faithful
in Christ called to be the salt of the earth.
There is a need for a prophetic laity in the Armenian Church,
like the monastics of a bygone era, men and women alike, who will
courageously bring attention to our shortcomings and call us back
to our faith.  The old monastic system has been
utterly clericized and limited to a training ground for hierarchs
and administrators. Administrators almost by definition find the
prophetic spirit dangerous, not useful or necessary.  A prophetic
laity in the ancient monastic spirit of renewal and
reform, however, will  come about only if we pursue the sort of
Christian instruction which I just described.
Furthermore, believers everywhere must join together in prayer
and study of scripture and pursue together projects of service.
Like Mary, we must sit attentively at Christ’s feet and listen to
the living Word of God.   But after we listen, we have
a right and a duty to serve.  It is time that the ancient order of
deaconess be restored in our Church.  And let us not quibble over
whether such women must be celibate or live in monastic
communities.  That is a tactic of the fearful and those who
refuse to permit the Church to adjust to the times.  The church
historian Jarislov Pelikan has written:  “Tradition is the living
faith of the dead.  Traditionalism is the dead faith of living.”
The Armenian Church is afflicted by the latter.
Real tradition is liberating , not confining.  Over the centuries
the diaconate has been reduced to a  narrowly defined liturgical
function.  It is time the diaconate be returned to its intended
role of total service to the community.  And that must
include our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.
Our church is in desperate need of regaining its identity as
mission.  Though we are not told so, we must believe that Mary not
only listened to the words of the Lord, but also preached them.  I
sometimes think the Armenian Church forgot the
meaning of the words mission and discipleship somewhere between
the fourth and twelfth century.  An evangelization of the people
must begin anew – here in America and now in Armenia.  We here
must create a model that can be appropriated with
adjustments in Armenia.  Preparing feasts for the lost sheep to
attend is not sufficient.  Jesus went to the lost sheep.  He did
not wait for them to come to him. If the liturgy does not extend
beyond the four walls of the sanctuary then it is an
abomination. “I will praise the Lord at all times.  Let His praise
be always on my tongue.”  This is what the deacon chants after the
benediction in the Divine Liturgy.  A massive effort is required
to recover and return all those Armenians whom the
Church counts on its roles, but who are not really present.  A
massive effort is required in Armenia to evangelize a people
separated from the Lord by seventy years of state enforced
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul
exhorted: “So then brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions
which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter”
(2 Thess. 2: 15 ). We are in the habit of calling our
church the Armenian Apostolic Church.  We call it that not just
because in the distant past our ancestors were evangelized by
Thaddeus and Batholemew or because our bishops claim what is
called apostolic succession.  Apostolic is derived from the
Greek apostolos, meaning one sent forth who is especially
commissioned to act in behalf of the one who sent him.  We are the
ones sent. He who sent us is the very Son of God.  He has
commanded us to “go .  . . and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the
Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded
you” (Matt. 19-20 ).  In this century, Armenians have been
scattered to the four corners of the earth.  Had we the
choice we might have picked another fate.  Nevertheless, this was
not a choice to be made by us.  But it remains for us to decide
whether or not we will make of our situation a holy service to the
Lord and in God’s good time earn, as our forefathers
and mothers did, the appellation apostolic.


Book Review

Abraham Vartabed Mgrdtchian, Elementary Textbook of Christian
Education  (in Eastern Armenian). Holy See of Etchmiadzin:  Center
for the Propagation of Faith, 1990, 105 pp., + appendix.

An old woman makes her daily rounds of veneration under the
arches of the ancient cathedral, systematically kissing every
pillar, wall and painting, quite undisturbed by the deafening echo
of unrestrained conversations.  A young couple stands mute
before a candle stand, blankly engrossed by the drops of wax
falling from the candles they have just lit.  An unshaven man
searches for a priest to say a prayer so that his daughter might
be cured of her irrational fear of dogs.  A nervous woman
seeks direction from a young priest after seeing a terrifying
vision of God.  A trio of teenage boys giggle nervously at the
thought of venerating the Cross at the foot of the Alter of
Descent.  The candle sellers just inside the cathedral are doing
record business as the line outside for baptisms grows to forty.
A walk through the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin on any given
afternoon reveals much about the nature of the much-talked about
revival of Christianity in Armenia.
The faith which is being awakened in the hearts and souls of the
Armenians is nothing short of miraculous.  At its best, it is
genuine, spontaneous and innocent; unquestionably, the faith of
“these little ones” which our Lord so admired (Mt.
18:1-6).  But for all its innocence and purity, the fledgling
faith of our people in Armenia is also characterized by an
overwhelming lack of direction and focus.  It is a gut piety which
lacks the guidance and formation necessary for it to mature
and develop into that faith which is real, sustaining and
life-giving.  An essential element of the Church’s mission is its
provident rearing and nourishing of the faith of her people by
teaching them the basics of the Christian faith.  For its own
health and well-being, the Church must teach her people the
narratives of our faith as revealed in the Bible, the history of
our Church and the lives and writings of her saints, and in
general what might be called living the life of the Church.  Our
people in Armenia are in desperate need of nothing more than
simple answers to simple questions about the Christian faith.
Without this basic information their “faith” will remain mired in
ignorance and superstition.
Elementary Textbook of Christian Education, the first publication
of the newly formed Center for the Propagation of Faith, is
therefore a cause for excitement.  The book is intended for use in
the schools, as a primary source for teaching about the
faith of the Armenian Church.  The 27 short one to two page
articles are distributed among three chapters.  The first is
entitled “General Information,” and includes articles on faith
and doctrine.  The second chapter is “The Life of Our Lord Jesus
Christ” containing retellings of the pillar events in Christ’s
life from his birth and
childhood to his death and resurrection.  The third chapter is
“The Church, ” where the sacraments and ceremonies of the Church
are discussed.  The textbook also has an appendix for manners of
addressing the clergy, prayers for various occasions,
and a glossary of names from the New Testament.
The articles are written in a very clear and simple style which
will certainly facilitate the use of this book by readers of all
ages and backgrounds.  The clarity of Fr. Mgrdtchian’s writing is
evident from the very opening pages of the book:
“Christianity is the religion established by Jesus Christ.  Jesus
Christ’s followers are called Christians_Christianity demands that
people worship God with living FAITH, with firm HOPE and sincere
LOVE (p. 5).”
Without exception, the articles  are very informative and well
written regarding the topic at hand.  The essay on prayer, for
example, emphasizes the meaning of prayer (“talking to God from
the depths of one’s heart”), the various types of prayer
(thanksgiving, glorifying, supplicatory), and how to go about
praying (reciting out loud, reflecting to oneself, singing,
crossing oneself, bowing, raising the hands, etc.).
Each article is followed by a passage from the bible and an
assignment for homework.  The Bible passages that are cited are
usually, but not always, relevant to the preceding article.  For
example the article on prayer concludes with Genesis
1:20-2:2, the account of the creation from the fourth to seventh
More troublesome are the assignments, which consist of copying
selected Biblical passages.  Though the assigned verses to be
copied are interesting, the reader is more often than not left
wondering what the connection is between the Bible passage
and the preceding article.  This is particularly problematic in
the case of the neophyte, who then finds himself    in the
precarious predicament of fabricating his own potentially false
connections.  This is to say nothing of the questionable
pedagogical value of rote copying.  It would have been more
valuable to provide short explanations for each of the assigned
Bible passages, and perhaps a few simple questions to check
understanding, with answers provided in an answer key at the end
of the book.
There are also a number of instances where the assigned verse has
been quoted out of context, and thus leading to gross
misunderstanding.  A striking example is John 5:39, which is
assigned following the article on Faith.  The verse as assigned
reads, “You search the
BOOK REVIEW, continued
scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life;
and it is they that bear witness to me.”  The key to this saying
of Jesus is the next verse–not included in the given
assignment–which reads, “Yet you refuse to come to me that you
may have life.”  Add to this, the less than obvious connection to
the concept of faith, a novice might misinterpret the saying, give
up, close the book and go to sleep.
Another shortcoming of the book is the often stiflingly
scholastic approach.  Does a textbook on the Christian faith
necessarily have to be scholastic?  On the contrary,  it must be
more pastoral and practical.  We are no longer in the middle ages
at the height of Catholic scholasticism.
The Divine Liturgy is by far the single most important act of the
Church.  It is the expression par excellence of the Church’s faith
and identity.  It is also by the Divine Liturgy that most people
are regularly exposed to the Church.  Yet Fr.
Mgrdtchian includes a mere page and a half of rather academic
information on the sacrament.  A more thorough treatment is
certainly called for, one which has as its point of departure the
experience of the Divine Liturgy–the meaning of the hymns,
prayers, litanies and psalms, which the participant hears, as well
as the rituals which he sees.  This is the key to a more practical
and pastoral approach which emphasizes the involvement and
participation of the faithful.  Fr. Mgrdtchian’s
presentation is frequently weakened by his detached, theoretical
Several important elements of our Christian faith and tradition
have been overlooked in the text, including the place of the
Saints and the Church calendar.  A broader discussion of the Bible
and its use in the Church and in private devotion is
also sorely lacking.
However, despite even the most serious of its shortcomings, this
book undoubtedly will serve as a useful tool for the development
our people’s faith in Armenia.
-Dn. Michael Findikyan
Holy Etchmiadzin


Dear Editors:
The most recent issue of Window is truly representative of a
quality publication; both educational and informative.  I have
passed on this issue, “Cults in Armenia” to many non-subscribers
than usual and they have been quite interested.
I have seen many within our parishes who were approached perhaps
at their most vulnerable moment(s) by members of some
“pseudo-christian cult.”  Unfortunately, they “come to the rescue”
so to speak to some of our Christian brothers and sisters in
In my eyes, the Armenian Church can and should be there during
these vulnerable moments as well as those moments of strength.
Our people must and should be able to maintain the same life and
family within the Church while simultaneously
experiencing Christian and spiritual support and fellowship.
This issue has, as other issues of Window have in the past,
touched a delicate and sensitive spot in our lives.  My hope is
that more people will receive this publication
and truly absorb its contents.  It is one of the few publications
that I have seen that is not only well written and professionally
done, but that has an identifiable mission which can be easily
understood.  It is the only publication my entire
family reads from cover to cover.  My thanks to Fr. Vazken, Dn.
Hratch and staff for a job well done.
Meline Grigorian
Margate, FL

Dear Editors:
I was at once disturbed and delighted by the “Cults in Armenia”
issue of Window (Vol. II, No. 1).  Disturbed because of the
pernicious influence modern cults are exercising on native
Armenians unfamiliar with the tenets of their church.  Delighted
because of my long standing interest in the phenomenon of
pseudo-Christian cults.  More often than not these cults revive
long discredited heresies such as Docetism, Arianism, Sabellianism
and Adoptionism, to name a few.  Of more immediate concern
however, is the spiritual impact these alien movements are having
on certain segments of a newly democratized Armenian society.
From a purely defensive perspective it is imperative,
particularly for the Armenian ecclesiastical hierarchy, to
understand the role of the message, that is the ideology being
propounded by these cults.  Remarkably, as Dr. Hrair Dekmejian has
emphasized, it is not so much the sublimeness of the message as
the mind set, the psychological predisposition of the targeted
individual, that determines the acceptance or rejection of the
proposed ideology.  Indeed, a number of sociologist of
religion have convincingly shown that nay spiritual, social or
emotional crisis (loss of a loved one, disease, unemployment, lack
of adequate housing, the trials of adolescence, etc. can lead
clear-headed individuals to accept uncritically cult
The first and right step in the onslaught upon the cults was
taken by the Catholicos himself.  I am hopeful that the creation
of the Center for the Propagation of Faith will play a decisive
role in revitalizing the faith of our forbearers within
the confines of a free, independent and democratic Armenia.  The
objectives of the Center, as stated on page 26 of Window, should
reassure all Armenians.
I would like to express my gratitude for your foresight in
devoting an entire issue of Window to such a timely topic. The
preservation, promotion and transmission of the apostolic faith to
our young people should be the concern of every Armenian
who sees a glimmer of hope and a new
direction for a tormented land.  It is my conviction that a
budding democracy such as Armenia should not attempt to prohibit
cult activities by legislation, as some well meaning diaspora
Armenians have advocated.  Rather, the errors of the cults
should be boldly forestalled through massive and systematic
religious education of the youth.
Only then will the peddlers of instant salvation and nirvana
operating on the blood drenched soil of Mother Armenia wither and
die out.
–John Bezazian
Fresno, CA

We would like to see Window published monthly.  You are filling a
big void!  Keep up the good work!
-Krikor Yessayan
Mayfield Heights, OH

Having read previous issues of Window, I wish to encourage you to
keep up the good and insightful work.  May God be honored and the
Armenian Church strengthened by your efforts.
-Rev. Nishan Bakalian
San Francisco, CA

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virtues, worship and ethics, marriage, church-state relations and
civil religion.  The first two essays review and analyze
the doctrinal moorings of Orthodox ethics. Special attention is
given to the place of love and virtues in traditional Orthodox
teaching.  The two middle essays focus on liturgical ethics and
the rites of baptism and marriage.  Guroian sees the
problem of the family in American society as a problem for and of
the church.

The final essays address the need for Orthodoxy to articulate a
social ethic in context with the American social order.  Due to
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The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group was founded in
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In view of the recent developments in the world and particularly
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approach to the matters facing the Armenian people in general and
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In 1990 ACRAG began publishing the Window quarterly.  Within a
year, Window  has become the premium journal of contemporary
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Among its accomplishments during its short history was the
production of the “Teotig” data base.  Compiled in this file are
names of over 1000 Armenian clergymen who were martyred during the
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