Re-Directing the Window Light, Vol. 5, No. 3,4

View the PDF version of this issue: Window_Vol5_No3and4_Fifth_Anniversary_Issue

Window view of the Armenian Church


Vol. 5, No. 3&45.34

©1995 Armenian Church Research & Analysis Group



Redirecting the Window Light       3

A Different Way of Doing Business       6

church and state

Armenia and the Vatican

Foreign Minister Vahan Papazian    7

From Philology to Diplomacy

Chargé d’Affairs Yervant Melkonian    14

An Armenian As Pope?     11

Church affairs

Pope John Paul II on Armenia   9

Amnesty International Report   23

New Catholicos in Antelias: H.H. Aram I   25

Karekin I’s address in Antelias   26

Contemporary Issues

An Armenian Voice in the Wilderness   19

Beyond Ethnic Parochialism   21

Women and the Armenian Church   18

Book Review   22

POETRY      27

INDEX  Window, Volumes I-V, 1990-1995   28


The Armenian Church Research & Analysis Group (ACRAG)


Fr Vazken Movsesian

Hratch Tchilingirian

Art Director

Yn Susan Movsesian


Alice Atamian

Electronic distribution

Roupen Nahabedian


Bruce Burr


Michael Findikyan

Abraham  Sldrian

Administrative  Assist. SOSI TOPJIAN-hines

Layout & Logistics


The views expressed in Window are not necessarily those of the Armenian Church hierarchy. Window is known as Loosamood in Armenia. Window is an independent publication supported solely by reader subscriptions. Entire contents ©1995 ACRAG. All rights reserved. Use of original articles, translations, art work or photographs without the expressed permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited by law. All manuscripts submitted for publication become the property of ACRAG. Subscription information: write to ACRAG, P.O. Box 700664, San Jose, CA 95170.  An electronic version of Window is available on the St. Andrew Information Network (SAIN) via the Internet at acrag Address all correspondence to: The ACRAG. Window  is produced on a Apple Macintosh computers and Laserset on a LaserWriter 630 and 320 printers, utilizing the ITC Bookman and ITC Avant Garde fonts. Material used is compiled and prepared utilizing the SAIN electronic forum. Printed in the United States of America by ACRAG Publishing.  Window and the logo appearing on the cover are trademarks of ACRAG.  Macintosh and LaserWriter are registered trademarks of Apple Computer.

© 1995 A.C.R.A. GROUP

P.O. Box 700664,

San Jose, CA 95170

Redirecting the Window Light

by Fr. Vazken Movsesian

With this issue of Window, the Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group (ACRAG) celebrates the fifth anniversary of its publication: Window view of the Armenian Church. In so doing, we close the pages of Window in the form we see today.

It is with mixed emotions that we pen this last editorial for Window Quarterly. On the one hand, it may seem strange as to why, in the height of Window’s success, we have opted to direct its light of the Armenian Church in a different direction; and on the other hand, we feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in having reached our goals. We started Window with a commitment to publish it for three years, four issues per year. Through the loyal support of our readers, we were encouraged to surpass the time frame we had set for ourselves. After five years, we are satisfied to close this window and begin opening new ways of viewing and effectuating change in the Armenian Church.

Unlike conventional thinking, we do not believe that a project or a publication should go on “forever” just because it is financially self-sufficient, successful or “doing a good job.” We believe that projects should constantly be evaluated in light of their relevancy to the times. The priorities and objectives of the community are not the same as they were five years ago. As such, we believe that it is time to move on.

The last five years were among the most significant years of the Armenian Church. While the independence of Armenia is the most historic event for the nation, during the last five years:

• All four Hierarchical Sees of the Armenian Church— Etchmiadzin, Cilicia, Jerusalem and Constantinople— elected new patriarchs.

• An international conference of Armenian clergy was held.

• Eight new bishops were consecrated for important communities in Europe, North America and South America.

• Two new seminaries and two theological institutions were founded in Armenia.

• The National Ecclesiastical Assembly of the Armenian Church convened for the first time in forty years.

We were honored and proud to be a part of this unique period in the life of the Church by providing coverage and analysis of these developments. While the events of the last five years were certainly filled with occasions for growth, we were disappointed that the opportunities for reform and change were never ceased. Today, our Church life continues in an abyss of stagnation, making us conclude, sadly, that the time was wrong, the conditions were wrong and, most importantly, the faith was wrong to effectuate a major change in the Armenian Church. So long as Christ and God’s creative presence are not allowed to work within the Church, the Church cannot live the reformation it needs. We must be willing to accept this reality. However, our inability to change the circumstances does not diminish our capacity to care for it.

The path to opening Window in the Church was a blessed one. It was with the encouragement of the late Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan that we laid the foundation for Window. Archbishop Nersoyan hoped to begin a theological quarterly with our editorship. Unfortunately he passed away without realizing this dream. A few months after his passing we pushed ourselves to take some action upon his wish. More than a theological journal, we sought a means of creating a forum for critical analysis of our Church, with  theological, administrative and pastoral perspectives.

While Window was still in its conceptual stage, we had to make an important decision: where was the best possible place to begin our endeavor, with the ultimate goal of effectuating change in the Church? To bring about change from the outside would inevitably mean a further division within the Church and an entrance into an already crowded arena of Armenian Church bashers and parenthetical churches. We opted to effectuate change from within. Given the reality of a hierarchy-controlled institution, this was not a comfortable decision for us, nevertheless, we firmly believed (and continue to do so) that it is only from within that we can preserve the integrity of the Church.

Our working premise was that the Armenian Church is founded by Jesus Christ. Throughout history, the real shakers and movers of the Church, moved it from within. The saints, to whom we pay mere lip service today, were real disciples who brought about the necessary reform in their day and age. Whether it was St. Gregory the Illuminator, St. Gregory of Datev, Simon Yerevantzi or in recent history Patriarch Torkom Koushagian of Jerusalem, or contemporary figures such as Archbishop Nersoyan, their lasting effects on the Church are counted today because they worked from within.

We also realized that we were not the first to embark upon such a venture. In fact, Jesus himself, angered by the plight of the formal institution, brought about the first ‘reform’—the establishment of a living faith rather than institutionalized religion. Since then, anyone who has dared to take seriously the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and juxtapose them to the living reality of the Church has been compelled to speak in terms of reformation. But, at what cost? Martin Luther attempted to reform the Roman Catholic Church only to be confounded by the institution, giving way to the Protestant Reformation.

Furthermore, the Church is a community. Any talk of reforming the Church must invariably include a commentary on reformation of the community.

There was no choice in the matter, change had to come from within and that is where we began our work.

During the past five years we have opened the Window on many issues. The perspectives that we presented from within and without the church were candid, evaluative, challenging and controversial. Our first issue was eight pages. We did not anticipate the response we received and Window took off beyond our expectations. By the third issue, we were already reaching an international audience. People began speaking of change in the Church. Among the hundreds of letters we received there was a reoccurring theme: a publication such as Window was sorely needed in the community. Window analyzed, criticized and most importantly, presented solutions. Window developed in quantity and quality, becoming a “mirror” and a challenge to the Armenian Church hierarchy, clergy, and lay leadership, and a forum for the silent majority in the Church. But for how long could we continue?

The basic need to return the Church to its spiritual mission is at the core of all the ails of the Church. We arrived at a point where no matter how small or large the particular focus of our analysis, the conclusion was the same: the only hope for the Armenian Church is a return to her apostolic mission, where the focus of her activities are larger than the people that run it.

Identifying problems in the Church also allowed us an opportunity to transform them into challenges. We are proud to say that the pages of Window never resorted to the tabloidish antics so prevalent in the Armenian press. Church unity, women in the Church, use of languages other than Armenian in the Church are all secondary issues. They continuously surface in the Armenian press as a convenient diversion of our attention from the primary issues. If Christ were at the center of the Church, unity would take place tomorrow, there would not be enough power on Earth to keep women out of the Church and the liturgy would transcend language. These and other issues cannot be seriously addressed, unless Christ’s centrality in the life of the Church is taken seriously.

In order for the Church to actualize its purpose and goals, we must be willing to take an active role. To this end, it is beyond the scope of Window to mobilize the children of the Church toward change. But the time has now come.

Today, the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church is being run by a handful of hierarchs who are driven by ambition, egos that need to be served rather than to serve, and are out of touch with the day to day reality of the Church’s membership. They are very comfortable sitting on their thrones and will fight any type of change which will buck the status quo. Meanwhile, the Church continues to sink deeper into the ditch of irrelevance, losing members and finding no functionality apart from a place to offer prayers for the dead.

Throughout the years, we have insisted that we have no one to blame for the current situation but ourselves—the members of the Church. We have invited members to activism but have been confounded in the very structure of the Church. We are quick to claim the democracy of the Armenian Church, but do not exercise its privilege. Perhaps it is because democracy in the Church is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is the best of all possible models because it provides lay and clergy input in the life of the Church, but at the same time, it invites a disproportional amount of politicking. The Church hierarchs have not attained their positions of power by virtue of holiness, but rather because of their shrewdness and ability to politic the masses. And so, we continue to elect men who are driven by ambition into the very nerve center of the Armenian Church. What good can come of this?

Furthermore, members of the Church are more concerned with form than substance. Appearance is everything to the members of the Armenian Church. How often do we judge a church by its outward appearance rather than the work it is accomplishing from within? How many priests are called to serve the church because of their “beautiful” voices? How many bishops and catholicoi are elevated to their thrones because of their wonderful oratory skills or political power? Equally as important is the question: how many priests, bishops, catholicoi are out there championing the causes of justice and truth? Sadly, not enough.

Because we lack the confidence in our role in the democratic process and because have lost sight of the Holy Mission of the Church, we continue to use superficial criteria for judgement and are happily satisfied by mediocrity. The Church suffers and so do we. Who do we have to blame but ourselves?

The Armenian Church is the Church of Jesus Christ. To exploit the cliché God cared enough to send His very best. At what point do we begin accepting the tremendous responsibility of being trusted with the Holy Church and demand that our clergy accept the call to service rather than self-glorification? When do we stop accepting the unsubstantiated notion that the Church is some tool for the Armenian nation in its quest for sovereignty? When do we become intolerant of clergy who equate the kingdoms of men to the Kingdom of God?

The time is here and the time has come for us to move from identifying our challenges to accepting them. Window closes its pages in the form you see today. However, we will continue our analysis and movement for the growth of the Armenian Church—Christ’s Church—utilizing different media that is available to us. Primarily, we will continue to publish on the internet at By availing ourselves to modern technology we hope that new and greater opportunities will open before us to continue our work for the edification of the Church.

In closing, we thank all of you, our loyal readership for your continued support. We could not have kept Window open had it not been for you. On behalf of Hratch Tchilingirian, myself and the entire Window staff, thank you for your confidence in our work. We are humbled by your kind words and gestures.

Window: A Different Way of Doing Business

Window was more than a publication to its staff. The operation of Window became a way in which its founders envisioned the Church could work. Window became a phenomena not only for its content but also in the manner it provided information.

One of the most interesting aspects of publishing Window was its production mechanics. Through its ‘global’ network, all twenty issues of Window were produced in (what has now become to be called) cyberspace. The editors, contributors and production staff were never in the same room, or in the same geographic region for the production of an issue.

Our central computer in the Silicon Valley, USA, would distribute the work to Window staff members in San Jose, Los Angeles, New York, London and Rome. For example, during the last two years, when Sosi Topjian, our Administrative Assistant moved from San Francisco to Sweden, she continued to process subscriptions and correspondence electronically through the network; or when editor Hratch Tchilingirian moved from New York to London, it did not have the least impact on the production of Window.

The use of the latest technology and telecommunications is an important part of publishing Window. For example, during the Pontifical Election in Etchmiadzin (April 1995), Window provided a three-week coverage of the historic event on the Internet, reaching Armenian readers throughout the world. Our coverage of the election was extensively used by the Armenian media in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Armenia. Likewise, when the Teotig database (Genocide archive) was compiled in 1991, notes and transcripts were sent daily between the editors and research staff, between Texas, Van Nuys and San Jose. The final product was a testament to the productivity that can be achieved through technological advancements.

The use of computers shaped our entire work philosophy and challenged us to exploit technology for the use of the Church. Just as the pen was a tool for Mesrob Mashdotz, the computer became a tool of choice for us at Window.

As for circulation, we had a simple philosophy more attuned to economics than to theology: if our product was good, people would buy it. We are proud to have published Window for five years without ever having to appeal to raffles, Bingo games or dinner-dances. Window was supported solely by the readers’ subscriptions who appreciated this “breath of fresh air.”

5 Year Stats

• 32 writers/contributers

• 25 exclusive interviews

• 67 original articles

Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.”

—(Luke 22:35)


Armenia and the Vatican

Foreign Policy, the Armenian Church and the Diaspora

A Conversation with

Vahan Papazian

Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia

by Hratch Tchilingirian

On March 25, 1995, the Republic of Armenia opened an Embassy at the Vatican. The formal ceremony was presided over by the Foreign Minister and his counterpart at the Vatican.

The Vatican has an embassy in Armenia since 1992.

Armenia and the Vatican

Foreign Policy, the Armenian Church and the Diaspora

A Conversation with

Vahan Papazian

Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia

by Hratch Tchilingirian

On March 25, 1995, the Republic of Armenia opened an Embassy at the Vatican. The formal ceremony was presided over by the Foreign Minister and his counterpart at the Vatican.

The Vatican has an embassy in Armenia since 1992.

Pope John Paul II’s

address to the

Armenian Ambassador

On Sunday, March 25, H.E. Mr. Armen Sarkissian, Ambassador of Armenia to the Holy See, presented his credentials to H.H. Pope John Paul II.

The following is the text of the Pope’s English-language address to the new ambassador.

Mr. Ambassador,

It is my pleasure to welcome you today to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Excellency President Levon Ter-Petrossian appoints you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings you bring from the President, and I would ask you to relay to the leaders and people of Armenia the assurance of my prayers for the harmony and prosperity of your country in the new stage of its national life. This is a significant occasion, as you are the first Ambassador of the newly independent Republic of Armenia to be officially accredited to the Holy See, in a special way, therefore, I wish to offer you my cordial good wishes for the success of your mission.

The Catholic Church looks with great respect at the long Christian tradition of the Armenian people and nation, which in the year 2001, as Your Excellency has pointed out, will celebrate the 1700th anniversary of their acceptance of Christianity. As the Armenian Church prepares to elect the new Catholicos of all Armenians, my thoughts turn to the meeting of my predecessor Pope Paul VI with Armenian Catholicos Vasken I. In that historic moment of common prayer and fraternal dialogue, Paul VI marveled at how completely the Christian faith, “the light of the Gospel” had permeated Armenian culture, serving as a source of unfailing courage for the Armenian people as they endured numerous trials.

The memory of the tragedy visited upon your people at the close of the last century and in the first decades of our present century, as well as the awareness of similar atrocities being committed in various parts of the world, must serve to strengthen the conviction that violence is never a valid way of solving the disputes which arise between peoples; force can never provide lasting solutions of justice and peace.

It is in this light, and with a heavy heart, that I turn my thoughts to the present confrontation between your country and the Republic of Azerbaijan concerning the region of Nagorny-Karabakh. I express the hope that both parties will spare no effort in arriving at a negotiated settlement and that everything will be done to ensure an immediate response to the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected populations. The conflicts now in course in the Caucasus region, as well as those in the Balkans, pose serious questions regarding what means may be used to ensure harmonious coexistence between different peoples. Clearly the way of negotiation, with the help of international institutions if necessary, is the only way to ensure that the legitimate demands and aspirations of all parties will be given their proper weight and attention.

As the Armenian people and Government press on with the democratic reforms and economic restructuring which their refound independence requires, the Catholic Church too will continue to offer whatever assistance and support is possible in accordance with her specific nature and mission. Just as the Church was able to respond to the disastrous 1988 earthquake in Armenia with humanitarian and including the donation of the Hospital “Redemptoris Mater” in Ashotzk, so she wishes to contribute to the life of the nation through her works in the fields of education, healthcare and social service. This is the Church’s way of fulfilling her mission of service in the world, working for transformation of society according to the teachings and example of her Divine Founder.

Accordingly, it is not the Church’s desire that she should enjoy special privileges from the Armenian Government, but that she should enjoy the freedom to act, according to the Gospel mandate which has been given her. This involves the freedom to organize herself at the local and national levels in order better to meet the spiritual needs of the Catholic faithful and to be able to extend compassion and help where required. The faithful too must be free to form communities of faith and service under the local Church leadership, while a just solution should be sought to the Armenian Catholic community’s existence in relation to the law on religious freedom and according to international standards.

Mr. Ambassador, your presence here is one of the signals of the new era which is dawning for the Republic of Armenia. I am confident that, through your work in the diplomatic mission you are undertaking today, this new era will also include the deepening of the bonds of friendship and co-operation between your mission and the Holy See. I assure you that the various officers of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties in any way they can. Renewing my good wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of almighty God upon you and upon the Government and people of Armenia.

source: L’Osservatore Romano (Weekly Edition), 29 March 1995.


Q. Recently the Republic of Armenia opened an Embassy at the Vatican, could you give us some details about this mission?

Papazian: The opening of the Armenian Embassy in the Vatican was part of our ongoing efforts to establish relations with foreign countries. As such, it is not a major political move on our part.

It is an aim of our foreign policy to establish contacts with international structures, especially European institutions. As a successor to a former Soviet republic, we are members of the CIS—which is very important for us—and at the same time we are participating in other regional and functional organizations, for example the OSCE, Black Sea Cooperation Council, and in the future, we hope to participate in the ECO [Economic Cooperation Organization] as observers, and others.  However, our immediate objective is to participate in the structures of the European Union—the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, etc. Of course, initially as an observer and then hopefully as a full member.  From this perspective—why I am mentioning all these objectives—it is important for Armenia to deepen its diplomatic relations with the Vatican.  Of course the Vatican is not a big state, but it has major influence on various countries and as such Armenian-Vatican relations are significant.  It was with these intentions that we opened an Embassy in the Vatican.

Q. Is there an Armenian Ambassador in the Vatican?

Papazian:   The Armenian Embassy at the Vatican is not like other embassies that we’ve established in other countries. I say this in the sense that there would not be a permanent ambassador sitting in the Vatican. Instead, Mr. Armen Sarkissian—our ambassador to Great Britain and Belgium— has also been certified to be ambassador to the Vatican.  He will visit the Vatican a few times a year or as needed to have meetings with Vatican officials, or discuss various issues or carry out negotiations on behalf of the Republic of Armenia.

Q. How was you meeting with the Pope?

Papazian: My meeting with the Pope, together with our ambassador was important. During our meeting I presented to His Holiness the current situation in Armenia and Karabakh, and the processes related to the conflict in Karabakh. We explained to him how we see the political solution of the conflict. I believe we have his cooperation and understanding in this regard.  We also met with other senior officials in the Vatican, with whom we discussed these issues in greater detail. We received assurances that the Vatican, through its channels, will help Armenia integrate into European structures.

Q. Were there any discussions about religious issues or inter-church relations?

Papazian: We did not discuss religious issues and I believe we should not. As a representative of the Republic of Armenia, it is not my place to discuss issues related to the Armenian Church. The Armenian Church is separate from the state and as such, I do not have the right to speak in the name of the Armenian Church with the Pope or with any other Vatican official. Of course people in the Vatican were interested in my personal opinions on religious issues—not as the Foreign Minister but as an Armenian individual.  I would say we had rather an academic discussion on religious matters and that was the extent of it.  Obviously, the Vatican is interested in religious matters in Armenia and I presented them my personal views.

I am aware of the sub-text of your question, and let me say a few words about that. I do not believe that there is a sense of competition or opposition between the two churches. There should not be.  The Armenian Apostolic Church is not any church. The Armenian Church is our National Church, and as such, she needs certain state support—in my opinion. It is another question whether the state has the capability to do so. Of course,  our people has lived in the orbit of the Armenian Church for centuries and it will continue to do so. That is where we belong. Our religious, spiritual and church life will continue to be the way it has been throughout history.

Q. In this context, how do you characterize the role of the Armenian Church?

Papazian: Of course, I do not wish to interfere with the affairs of the Armenian Church—and I do not have any intention to interfere—but I believe and hope that Etchmiadzin, as the religious center of the Armenian nation, will play a more active, practical and vital role in the life of our society. I believe this is essential in view of the fact that our society—having rid itself of Soviet controls, including the pressures that were put on the church—needs to fill this spiritual vacuum. Obviously, there are other spiritual sources in a given society, such as culture, science, etc., but the church should have its place in the life of the society as well.

So far, Etchmiadzin—in my opinion—has not been able to satisfy the religious needs of our people.  This has caused some problems because when the church is unable to fill the spiritual vacuum of society, others will come and do the work. And we as a state will not fight against that. The state does not have the right to decide what faith or religion its citizens should adhere to.  It is up to the national church to decide what to do and how to conduct its mission. This is my personal opinion.

Q. To continue in this vein, the 1991 law on freedom of conscience and religion contains several contradictions concerning the Armenian Church. On the one hand the law prescribes the separation of church and state and on the other gives the Armenian Church certain privileges.  This is considered unfair by other churches or religious groups in Armenia.

Papazian: I agree with you that the law in this respect is not perfect.  That law was accepted in 1991 when the Parliament was new and inexperienced.  Let us not forget that Armenia is a new state, where national and political thought is in a process of development.  In this respect, if there are contradictions in the law they will be refined in time. Personally, I am not involved with legislative processes, that’s the job of the parliament. However, I believe that contradictions in the law should be ironed out. Especially, as Foreign Minister, I think contradictions should be worked out in accordance with international principles. Our standards and principles should match internationally accepted principles. I believe that international principles accord the Armenian Church full opportunities to continue and deepen her historical and national role.  We cannot resolve all problems by law.

Q. In the Diaspora, the Armenian Church has been a surrogate state for Armenians, at least until the Independence of Armenia.  As Foreign Minister, how do you regard the Armenian Church in the Diaspora today?

Papazian: You are asking me a very complex question. Having been involved with these issues for the last three-four years, I think the issue is related to the various facets and internal structures of the Diaspora. The existing internal organization and structures in the Diaspora—including the church— are not sufficient enough to deal with contemporary national issues. Of course, I am an Armenian [resident of Armenia] and I might be mistaken—perhaps a Diaspora Armenian would better respond to these questions. I do not reserve the right to criticize, but this is my opinion.

As to what kind of changes or transformations are needed for the church to respond better to the needs of the people, that is up to the church to decide how it should make herself more attractive to the people.

As far as I am concerned, the objective should be the following (and this pertains not only to the church but also to other structures): the church has a specific structure, Etchmiadzin—the center of the church—is in Armenia and in the final analysis, formal and important decisions and policies concerning the church are made in Etchmiadzin. Thus, all the dioceses and the clergy in the Diaspora are expected to adhere and implement these decisions. In this respect, the role of the church is very specific, because Armenia, as a state, cannot intervene in the internal affairs of the Diaspora. The Armenians of the Diaspora are citizens of their respective countries (here I am simplifying the issue to tell you what I think). As such, the church could have more influence than the Armenian state.  It is true that we have our embassies (not everywhere), which are set up to execute our policies with the governments and authorities of the respective countries—not the Armenian communities. But the church has more freedom and access to the local community than the embassy. As to what needs to be done, it is difficult to say anything specific. One thing is clear, the church has many things to do. I also realize that by simply theorizing or clarifying the problems you do not necessarily solve them. It is essential to have the people, the personnel, who would seriously tackle the problems. I know from my own experience—what we lack in foreign diplomacy is not policy, but people.

I am hopeful that Etchmiadzin will gain its strength again, especially now that we will have a new Catholicos, and I say this not just as a member of the Armenian Church, but because our nation, our country needs her.   n

*This interview was conducted on March 29, in Athens. Translated from Armenian by H. Tchilingirian.

“It is not the Church’s desire that she should enjoy special privileges from the Armenian Government, but that she should

enjoy the freedom to act,

according to the Gospel mandate which has been given her. This

involves the freedom to organize herself at the local and

national levels.”

— Pope John Paul II


An Armenian As Pope?

A British Diplomatic Report

on Cardinal Agagianian,1958

Introduction and annotation by

Ara Sanjian

Recently, the Armenian Catholic Church marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of arguably its most famous cleric, Cardinal Grigor Petros XV Agagianian (Aghajanian), only the second Armenian Catholic churchman ever to be elevated to the exalted office of Cardinal.  The honorary office has no particular theological significance. Cardinals assist the Pope in the government of the universal Roman Catholic Church. The first Armenian Cardinal had been Patriarch (Catholicos) Anton Petros IX Hassounian in 1880. However, there are persistent rumors—which, because of Catholic traditions of absolute secrecy on matters relating to papal elections, cannot be confirmed officially—that Agagianian is unique in Armenian history for having had his name twice, in 1958 and in 1963, discussed seriously as a possible candidate in the papal elections. During the séance academique culminating the above-mentioned 100th anniversary, held in Kaslik (Lebanon) on February 25, 1996, speaker after speaker expressed open regret for him not having been given the opportunity to show his talents in that highest of offices in the Catholic Church. Direct mention was made by one speaker, Father Jean Tabet, the Superior-General of the Maronite Lebanese Order, to an article by the Italian journalist, Andrea Tornielli, published in the December 12, 1993 issue of the Italian Catholic magazine, 30 Giorni, in which the author had claimed that Agagianian had received a large share of votes in the 1958 conclave and that Italian military intelligence had mounted a slur campaign against him prior to the 1963 conclave by circulating a report that his 70-year old sister, Elizabeta Papikova, had ties to the KGB and had made contact with the Soviet embassy during her visit to Rome in 1962 to meet her brother.

The future Cardinal Agagianian was indeed born in Akhaltsikhe (now inside the Republic of Georgia in the Transcaucasus) on September 18, 1895, when the town was still part of the Russian czarist empire. His Armenian Catholic ancestors were natives of Erzerum who, fleeting Ottoman persecution, had sought refuge in the Transcaucasus in 1829. Agagianian lost his father at an early age, but the Apostolic Administrator of Armenian Catholics in the Caucasus, Mgr Sargis Ter Abrahamian, fascinated by the young orphan’s unusual intelligence, took him under his patronage and, in compliance with his mother’s wish that one of her children become a clergyman, he appealed to Rome and succeeded in securing a place for the lad in the seminary of Propagation of Faith.

The young Agagianian set out for Rome in October 1906 and studied there for twelve years. He was graduated at the age of 22 specializing in theology, canon law and philosophy. Because of his superior intellectual ability, he was ordained a priest while still a student.

In 1919 he returned to the Caucasus as Curate of the Armenian Catholic St. Illuminator Church of Tbilisi. He was scarcely installed in his office when, because of his unusual administrative talent, he was appointed Pastor of Tbilisi Catholics.

At the age of twenty-six, Agagianian accepted an invitation to assume the chair of Cosmology and the Seven Holy Sacraments at Urban College, his alma mater, as well as the directorship of the Armenian Catholic Levonian Theological Seminary in Rome. Soon, the establishment in 1921 of a Soviet regime in Georgia would make his return to his native land impossible. For sixteen years, Agagianian lectured in philosophy and theology. It was during this period that he also published three works: The Life of Father Komitas Keomourjian (in Italian); The Seven Holy Sacraments and The Holy Eucharist (both in Latin). The latter two were later used as textbooks for students. During the last year of his professorship, Agagianian also served as advisory member of the Congregation for Eastern Rites and the Committee for Codification of the Canon Law of Eastern Churches.

Agagianian was ordained bishop in 1935 and sent to Lebanon as Apostolic Vicar to the Armenian Catholic Convent of Bzommar. He was elected “Patriarch of the Catholic Armenians and Catholicos of Cilicia” in 1937, at the age of 42, and was elevated to the exalted rank of Cardinal by Pope Pius XII in 1946. He was recalled to Rome in 1960 and served during the next decades as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of Faith. He, therefore, had to resign as Catholicos-Patriarch of Armenian Catholics in 1962. Agagianian passed away in Rome on May 16, 1971.

The following British diplomatic document, dated January 26, 1958, which—as far as this publisher is aware of—is being published for the first time, indicates that, with the aging Pope Pius XIII increasingly suffering from poor health, the possibility of Agagianian succeeding him was also taken seriously by Sir Marcus Cheke, who served as British Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Holy See from May 30, 1957 till his death in 1960. In this diplomatic report addressed to Edward Michael Rose, the Heat of the Levant Department at the British Foreign Office in 1955-1958, Cheke describes a meeting he had with the Cardinal. Agagianian seemingly failed to impress the British Envoy fully, however, for although Cheke reported that Agagianian “certainly possesses some qualifications for such an elevation,” he also underlined that he could not say that “he discerned in him the aura of a future Pontiff”.  Moreover, it is interesting that Mrs. Barbara Miller of the British Foreign Office Northern Department, commenting on the said report, thought that whatever the Cardinal’s personal qualities might be, it was unlikely that he would be acceptable as Pontiff to the whole of the Sacred College of Cardinals, the senate of the Roman Catholic Church. The Uniate movement—which includes the Armenian Catholic Church—believed Miller, was not by any means popular in the Roman Catholic circles.

This document is also useful in shedding light onsome of the Cardinal’s views in regard to international affairs during the tense Cold War years. It is preserved at the Public Record Office in Kew, South-West London, in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office General Correspondence (FO37) file no. 133892 under the document reference number V1782/4.




Dear Michael,

I paid a call yesterday on the Cardinal Agaganian (sic), Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, who customarily resides in Beirut. He is the head of the Armenian Uniate Church, and he is frequently mentioned as a possible successor to the present Pope by people who fancy that he may be destined to bring about a reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the U.S.S.R. He was actually born on Russian soil. Other recall a prophecy made by Pius the Tenth, who seeing Agaganian when was a student at the College of Propagation of Faith, put his hand on the young man’s shoulder and murmured that he was destined for high dignity, “perhaps the highest”.1 I cannot say that I discerned in him the aura of a future Pontiff, but he certainly possesses some qualifications for such an elevation; he is clear-headed, his mind seems in perfect repose, and he speaks faultless English.

2. I had hoped that the Cardinal would give me concrete information about the situation in the Middle East where he is a front-seat observer, but though he kept me for half an hour I have only the following to pass on you:—

3. The Cardinal said he received no news whatever of the members of his Church,2  who number 70,000, behind the Russian frontiers.

4. As regards the world situation, he describes himself as an optimist: as long as the West remained firmly united better times would come.

5. He said he thought the Syrian Government would like to renew diplomatic relations with Great Britain but national pride prevented them taking the first step.3

6. The Cardinal remarked that one of the most unfortunate things in the history of our times was that Russia’s anti-colonial propaganda should coincide with anti-colonial sentiment in America. He considered that the solution to the problems created by nationalist feeling among colonial peoples was to give them their independence, but not too fast. He spoke of Indonesia being a “mess”.4  He then paid tribute to the stability and peace which the British Empire gave large areas of the world. As regards Russian intrigue in Middle Eastern countries he said it had two distinct facets: the one was the endeavour to seduce the sympathies of governments, and the other was to organize a party of violence among the mob. In this matter the Russians have copied the pre-war policy of the Nazis towards Danzig or Austria.

7. On the whole, I got the impression that the Cardinal, like certain members of the Vatican Secretariat of State, believes that the best thing for the Western powers to do is to hang on, avoid was (and the more strong armed and united they are, the less danger there is of Russia venturing on a war) and to wait for a transformation inside Russia, which he thinks will happen sooner or later.

8. I lately read Mademoiselle Sagan’s5 latest novel in which I found the phrase: “Elle savait déja qu’il ne sagissait pas de trouver une résponse, mais d’attendre que la question ne se posât plus”.6  In their policy of hanging on and waiting for a problem to evaporate with time, it occurred to me that these words might serve as a motto for many Roman ecclesiastics I have spoken with. They remember the stupendous blows which the Papacy suffered at the hands of the armies of the French Revolution, and later the hostility of the risorgimento which was really a sequel to the same Revolution;7 they see the Papacy enjoying today much of its ancient prestige, and they deduce that the Communist menace may one day blow over likewise.

Yours ever

Marcus Cheke

M. Rose Esquire, C.M.G.

Levant Department, Foreign Office

London S.W.1


An interesting account. On paragraph 8 another encouraging quotation is “Quie mange du Pape en meurt”.8

As to the Cardinal himself, whatever his personal qualities may be it does not seem likely the he would be acceptable as Pontiff to the whole of the Sacred College. The Uniate movement is not by any means popular in the Roman Catholic circles.

B. Miller


1. The “prophecy” referred to by Cheke was reportedly made in 1908, when Pope Pius X was visiting young Catholic Armenian students studying for priesthood in the Levonian seminary in Rome during celebrations commemorating the 25th anniversary of the foundation of that institution. According to another version of this “prophecy” retold by Father Antranik Granian, the young Agagianian joyously laughed when the Pope asked jokingly: “Let us see who among you will become a bishop?” Seeing the young lad’s laughter, the Pontiff reportedly continued: “Do you smile? Do you like to become a bishop? I wish you become not only a bishop, but a Patriarch as well!” There is no mention of any prophecy regarding papacy in this version; see the trilingual (Armenian, Arabic, French) booklet, Grigor Petros XV Agagianian: Catholicos-Patriarch of Catholic Armenians and Cardinal of the Universal Church (1895-1971), published on the occasion o f the 100th anniversary of the Cardinal’s birth.

2. i.e., the Armenian Catholic Church.

3. Syria and Egypt had broken off diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom in early November 1956 as a protest against the tripartite British-French-Israeli aggression against Egypt. Relations had not been restored when, just a few days after this report was filed, Syria and Egypt merged to form the United Arab Republic (UAR). Britain and the UAR restored diplomatic relations only on December 1, 1959.

4. Indonesia’s independence had been recognized by the Netherlands, her former colonial master, in 1949. By the second half of the 1950s, however, the country was suffering from political in-fighting among different factions in its elite, leading in late 1956 and early 1957 to several abortive military coups and seizures of power in various provinces by military commanders opposed to the policies of the central government.

5. Françoise Sagan is the pen name of the French author, Françoise Quoirez (b. 1935).

6. “She already knew that she would be unable to find an answer, but was waiting so that the question would no longer be asked”.

7.  The Risorgimento (“rebirth” or “renewal” in Italian) is the name of the movement from 1815 to 1861 that marked the last phase in the evolution of Italy toward a modern and unified nation-state based on the principles of constitionalism, secularization, and economic development. The Risorgimento was heavily influenced, inter alia, from the ideas of the 18th century European Enlightenment and the principles of the French Revolution.

8. “He who eats the Pope dies”.

From Philology to Diplomacy

Church and State Relations in Armenia and

the Election of Two New Catholicoi

A conversation with

Yervant Melkonian

Republic of Armenia’s Chargé d’Affairs in Lebanon

by Hratch Tchilingirian

The Hon. Yervant Melkonian was born in Kamishli, Syria. He received his primary education at the Yeprad Armenian National School in Kamishli, where a sizable Armenian community existed with its churches, schools and clubs. In 1958, at the age of 14, Melkonian went to Antelias, Lebanon, to study at the Seminary of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. Upon completion of his studies, he was ordained a deacon of the Armenian Church. He said, “I am still a deacon of the Armenian Church—most of my classmates are bishops and archbishops now. I must say that the church and religious education had a lasting impact on my life. In fact, I never left the church; my professional career was spent in Holy Etchmiadzin”. In 1965, Melkonian’s family “repatriated”  to Armenia, and he left Antelias to join his family on their way to Armenia.   In 1970, after graduating from the Philology Department of Yerevan State University—receiving a degree in Armenian Language and Literature—Melkonian became a lecturer in the Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin, teaching Church History and Classical Armenian. From 1985 to 1992, he was also the chief-editor of Etchmiadzin Monthly, the official organ of the Catholicosate of All Armenians. Having served the Catholicosate for 22 years, Melkonian left his position in Etchmiadzin to become Armenia’s Chargé d’Affairs in Lebanon.

Q. How was your transition from philology to diplomacy?

Melkonian: In late 1993, the President of the Republic of Armenia called me and told me about the plan of the Republic of Armenia to open an embassy in Lebanon. Considering my familiarity with the Diaspora and the fact that a large community of Armenians live in Lebanon, he asked me if I would become Armenia’s diplomatic representative to Lebanon. While I felt honored and privileged for the President’s confidence in me, I was little concerned about the assignment, since I did not have any diplomatic experience or any idea about diplomatic missions.  The only thing I had was an interest in politics, especially issues related to the Armenians.  I had never thought that one day I would become a diplomatic representative.  Since the President of our Republic invited me to take this assignment,  I responded positively to his call.  Of course, the government, the people and history will ultimately decide how I carry out my responsibilities.  I have a clear objective: to serve my country and nation.

Today our generation is making history. Not every generation has this opportunity. We witnessed and lived through historic events in the life of our nation—the collapse of the Soviet empire, the independence of Armenia, and new intergovernmental and diplomatic relations with other countries. And suddenly, one day, you receive the honor to become the first representative of your country to another country.  I tell you, to have a sense of statehood is something else. Statehood is as important as independence.  If you have the pride of being a state, the development of relations become easier.  In this sense, when we were attempting to develop diplomatic missions, there were concerns as to how we were going to do it—we have never been to diplomatic schools. Diplomacy has strict rules and protocols and we were not sure how we would fit in.  But now that we have a year-and-a-half experience in this kind of work, I am convinced that in order to be a diplomat, first of all, you need to be loyal to the country, people and government whose interests you are going to represent.  If you believe in the present and the future of your people, then the most difficult issue of diplomacy is solved, that is, you believe in your work, you figure out what is good or harmful for your people. When this is clearly identified and carried out on state level, the rest is left to your personal capabilities: intellect, character, and interaction. These are very important in diplomacy.  Most of our work is carried out in informal settings—during gatherings, unofficial meetings, etc.  It is in such settings that sincere exchange of thoughts and ideas are facilitated.  And sometimes, some of the most complicated problems are unexpectedly resolved in these encounters.  In formal and official encounters, both the host and the guest are constrained and speak with each other with careful language.  They are careful not to say more than they need to say.  In diplomacy you have no right to err. This is a very important rule.  Because your error might result in serious consequences for you and your people.

Having said this, I could say that today, one year and a half since we opened our embassy here, Armenian-Lebanese relations are very good.  In fact, recently, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia was here and signed several bilateral agreements with the government of Lebanon.

Q. Is the Armenian Embassy in Lebanon different from other embassies?

Melkonian:  In a way it is because this embassy is located in a country where there is a large Armenian community.  Of course this has its advantages and disadvantages.  One of the advantages is that you feel yourself among your people and there is no psychological alienation. You feel that what you are doing for Armenia, you are doing also for the community here.  After all, any Diaspora—any nation’s Diaspora—cannot exist without a fatherland.  What we are doing for the sake of Armenia—in terms of strengthening our country and statehood—in a way, we are doing also for the benefit of the Diaspora.  Ultimately, whether we like it or not, sooner or later, the attention of all Armenians will turn to the fatherland.  The fatherland is the focal point of all of our future intentions.  If we do not have a national focal point, then we cannot solve any of our political or national problems.  Today, Armenia, as an independent state, is in a position to realize all of our national hopes—of course, to accomplish this,  time and determination are needed.

Q. In this context, how do you characterize the relationship between the Armenian state and the Diaspora?

Melkonian: Today, there is a clear understanding and a sense of responsibility, that our state should be the guardian of all our national values, without exceptions: religious values, cultural values, moral values. It is impossible for any individual group or sector, or organization to protect all our national values. Each Armenian group caters to a segment of the people—they have their particular followers and sympathizers. Unfortunately, while knowing that they represent only a segment of the people, they attempt to claim the rights of the entire nation. If we could solve this problem, we would have a better understanding of our internal communal affairs.  It is only the state that can speak on behalf of the entire nation. The other organizations could speak only on behalf of their followers.  As such, groups or organizations should join forces for the benefit of the whole. The rule of differences is very harmful, but the rule of how-are-we-similar is a  functional one.  Our Embassy’s work, in relation to the Armenian community, is characterized by this rule.  In all of our functions, we never discriminate against any national group or organization. Absolutely not.  We invite all Armenian organizations to our functions and we keep them abreast of developments in our Embassy—whether it is Dashnagtsutyune, Hunchag, Ramgavar, Baregordzakan, Communist or others.  For example, last year, May 28 [establishment of the First Republic of Armenia] was celebrated by all the parties—it was a true pan-Armenian event. Even the Armenian Communists, who for seventy years rejected that date, participated in the celebrations.  May 28 is an event which has a national significance and the government of the Republic of Armenia, appreciating its importance, is the guardian of its value.

There might be incidents when we are denied participation in this or that national event. For example, today there are tendencies to present the Armenian Cause [Genocide] as an “either-or” case. But that is very simplistic. I believe—and assure you—that as the government of Armenia becomes stronger, day by day, economically and in international relations, there will be no national problem which is not solvable.  Methods, ways and times change, sometimes slowly, sometimes speedily. Nevertheless, the sooner the Diaspora understands this the better. Today, the leadership of the Republic of Armenia has a clear sense of responsibility toward these issues. Fortunately, their sense of responsibility could not be measured by the standards of any particular sector—even historical ones with their one hundred-year-old perceptions.  The view of the current state leadership in Armenia is much deeper than that.

Sometimes people say, coming from the “deaf caves” of the Madenataran [the Manuscript Library], how could President [Ter Petrossian] run a country.  I wish everybody had the good fortune to look [at events] from those “caves of our history”. It is there that the depth of our history is measured, and in turn, our responsibility is measured according to that depth.  I as a philologist—as I said, I am not a career diplomat—am aware of that deep history. Nobody has the right to doubt the sincerity of my feelings.  One may not agree with me, but I am entitled to have my personal opinions, just as I am expected to respect the opinions of others. It is not the difference of opinions or views that create a state, but states are built on agreements, on harmony, on bringing ideas together.  Finally, when there is a state, the state cannot be the subject under question per se.  We may disagree on this or that issue, but we should never forget that today, this is the state we have.  Tomorrow, if the leadership is changed, nothing changes from the state—the state as an Armenian national entity does not change. We should not measure our judgments based on individuals.  The person of the President of Armenia may not be acceptable to certain people—there are those who have expressed their opinions in this regard—but as of yet, nobody has enumerated justifiable reasons as to why this President is unacceptable, except for emotional ones. You cannot run a state based on emotions.  You may love or hate someone, but to turn emotions into a political principle is the most dangerous game.

Q. You are the only Armenian diplomat familiar with Armenian Church affairs, having served in Holy Etchmiadzin for more than two decades. What are your thoughts on the mission of the Armenian Church today?

Melkonian: During my twenty-two year tenure in Etchmiadzin, I have witnessed the church’s role during the Soviet era and after. We know that the Soviet Union was an atheistic country and religion was rejected in principle.  The ways that this was done are well known.  For me, as someone who knows the church quite well, one thing is very important: during the seventy years of the Soviet regime, the church functioned with one principle: the people came to the church, the church never went to the people.  Today, if there is one thing that needs to change in Armenia it is this modus operandi. The church herself should go to the people.  The church should enter into the life of the people, starting from the hospitals, prisons and everywhere.  In short, Armenians should experience the church in their daily lives.  Thus, it is very important to revitalize the church with a new momentum.  It was for this reason, I believe, that the President, who is someone very familiar with the internal life of the church, put forward the idea that the one who occupies the throne of the Catholicos of All Armenians should be the most qualified person—Catholicos Karekin. This was done so that he may reorganize the church internally and bring a new spiritual strength to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; so that the clergy may realize that their primary calling is in the church and that they should be less secular; so that there is a spiritual structure that would sustain the collective morality of the nation.

Today, under the conditions of independent Armenia, the principle task of the church should be the moral welfare of the nation.  The issue of the moral education of the nation should be carried out based on church and religious norms, because the Church is the embodiment of our national traditions. The church, in the absence of national statehood, assumed state functions. Thus, by state and religious virtues, the Armenian Church became a purified national ethos. We need to return this to the church. She should become a strong spiritual structure with a wide-ranging missionary dimension.  In order to accomplish these tasks, the church needs clergy who are not only aware of their calling, but are also intellectually prepared to deal with contemporary problems in the world.  The church needs clergy who would carry out the religious and moral education of the people. If need be, the church should institute certain reforms. Today, educating people based on the thinking and the canons that were drawn up a thousand years ago would be almost impossible.  The church should keep pace with the times. She needs to be renewed even by preserving the traditions.  Just as our church architecture has changed over the centuries and adapted to the needs of the times, the church should adapt to the times and fit the times into her larger mission.

I hope that the election of Catholicos Karekin of All Armenians will be very fruitful within the next two or three years.  We hope that the Holy See of Etchmiadzin will be stronger and the spiritual atmosphere in Armenia will improve—and most important, the image of the clergy would be raised, once again, in the eyes of Armenians.   Indeed throughout the entire Soviet period, especially in the 1950s and 60s, the clergy were treated very badly and unfairly on all levels. Today, one thing is clear: the clergy is not persecuted and will not be persecuted, on the other hand, he should be accountable for carrying out the oath he gave to God and should perform his duties  conscientiously, with total dedication and service.

If this happens, I do not see any contradiction in principle, between the activities of the church and the state.  It is true that constitutionally they are separate, but they cannot exist exclusive of each other.  The cause is one: the spiritual, moral education of the nation; the strengthening of our national statehood and independence— in short, the self-affirmation of the nation in the international family of nations.  In this sense, church and state complement each other.

Q. Can you elaborate as to why President Ter Petrossian endorsed the candidacy of Catholicos Karekin prior to the pontifical election in Etchmiadzin?

Melkonian: When the President of Armenia publicly expressed his opinion concerning the pontifical election, it was interpreted as state intervention in the affairs of the church. I regret for those people who viewed it as mediation rather than a very responsible position before a crucial historic moment. As someone who knows the President and one who has discussed these issues with him, I know—and have no doubt—that the President acted in response to the seriousness of the moment. On the contrary, people and organizations should be happy, should be proud, that they have a President who—at this important historical moment—did not relegate his responsibility toward his nation’s history.  If you remember, in his first address to the Catholicos, he said, “the President and the Catholicos ought to sacrifice [madagh] their lives for the people”. This is why the President raised his voice publicly concerning this issue. Because he would not tolerate any accidental or haphazard turn of events in the Mother See of Etchmiadzin. Of course, this does not mean that the other candidates for the election were not worthy—but it was a matter of the worthiest.  Our views were based on qualifications, and we were well aware that Catholicos Karekin was the most qualified, on an international scale.  This was needed to be said loudly. We had nothing to be ashamed of.  This was our understanding. I hope that this understanding will be appreciated in the Diaspora as well. We were well aware that we were breaking a 600-year-old norm by considering the Catholicos of Cilicia worthy to become the Catholicos of All Armenians. My interpretation of this is as follows: the Mother See of Etchmiadzin, vis a vis the Republic of Armenia, took the first step toward the issue of church unity and its consequences for history.  The state does not see the existence of the fatherland only based on the developments of today, but it looks at its existence for history. The state’s perspective is both looking back deep into history, and looking forward to future goals and destinations. That is why the state has the right to hope—and it seems that it will spare no effort—to make the dream of church unity come true.

I would have been very surprised if the government of Armenia were to remain indifferent as to who will be the next Catholicos.  We have enormous national treasures in Etchmiadzin. Shouldn’t we have thought about who is going to be responsible for these treasures?  One thing is clear: if our national interests require the cooperation of the church and state, so that the morale of our people is quickly improved and revitalized, then we will do it by all means, regardless of the principles adopted by others.

Q. How about the division in the Armenian Church?

Melkonian: In the past, various historical necessities have given rise to the existence of this or that church structure. There were historical circumstances whereby various tendencies in church relations emerged—in this case, the Etchmiadzin-Antelias division which is interpreted as the result of historical necessity.  At least this is how it is presented by Antelias—they say that Armenia was not free, that Armenia was under Soviet rule, and the Catholicos was subject to the will of the Soviet government, the Mother See was weak and could not tend to the spiritual needs of the nation, etc. Well, today, Armenia is free and the Church is not subject to outside forces. In free Armenia, the Church will be stronger and will prepare herself to offer her spiritual service to all sectors of the  people.  Logically speaking, one would ask: Why can’t the Cilician See, in its entirety and through its brotherhood, offer her religious, spiritual service to the Armenian nation under the auspices of the universal Catholicosate of All Armenians? Why not? What’s preventing us?

Q. How about the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Constantinople?

Melkonian: The circumstances for the existence of the two Patriarchates are different. The historical circumstances that determined their existence are still in place.  For example, in order to preserve the sixty-thousand strong Armenian community in Turkey, we do not have any other structure except the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In order to preserve and defend our national treasures in Jerusalem, we do not have any other structure except the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. If the existence of the Cilician See is justified by ministering to the religious needs of the nation—the “people of Cilicia”—I do not see any contradiction or problem in providing that service under the auspices of the universal Catholicosate of All Armenians—just as the other two Patriarchates are serving the nation under the auspices of Etchmiadzin. Being a Patriarchate does not negate the mission of a given church structure.  For example, members of both the brotherhood of Jerusalem and Constantinople are serving in places where they are needed and where they are called to fill a need. Why should a service be determined based on the principle of rendering it to a particular structure? We have to bear in mind that the Catholicosate of All Armenians does not impede the other structures in carrying out their service to the nation—unless there are doctrinal or canonical differences. If there are political reasons, then gradually, those reasons should diminish, and perhaps one day they will be completely lifted. The unity of the church should be restored.

Q. However, now that the Cilician See has a new Catholicos, how would your proposal be implemented?

Melkonian: We knew that the Cilician See, after the election of Catholicos Karekin, would have a new Catholicos in Antelias. This was obvious.  For Antelias, as far as church unity is concerned, the point of departure is cooperation. Let the cooperations start and then the cooperation would itself determine the future course and realities.  Then, in time, it would be asked as to what is the meaning of cooperation.

Q. Going back to church-state relations, it seems that the government of Armenia has assigned the church the responsibility to tend to the moral and spiritual needs of the Armenian nation.  What are your thoughts on this issue?

Melkonian: This is true, especially in view of the fact that the government of Armenia—because of the serious economic problems—is not in a position to carry the entire responsibility of education, schooling, moral upbringing and development of cultural expressions of the people. At this point, it is impossible financially to carry out these tasks. It is natural that under such conditions the government would want to have certain institutions on its side which would bear some of these responsibilities. For example, cultural organizations would be concerned with the cultural development of the people. In the case of the spiritual, moral education of the people, the government, naturally, would rely on the Armenian Apostolic Church—not any church, but the one which is historically dear and familiar to the people.

Those who saw a “government conspiracy” in the election of the new Catholicos to exert influence on the church are motivated by their own personal agenda—to criticize and condemn the government. These people are doomed to fail, because they will soon see that Catholicos Karekin is receiving only encouragement and support from the government authorities to carry out his projects and activities. As I mentioned earlier, both the President and the Catholicos work with the realization that their lives are to be sacrificed [madagh] for the people.  That is, Catholicos Karekin will have the backing of the government for all his religious and church projects. I think any church would envy this situation. I would like to see any other church which enjoys such support from the government. This is not a matter of influence, but a matter of support.  The government does not need to take the church in its hands and add another burden to its overwhelming responsibilities.  On the contrary, the state gives the church the opportunities for independent development and whenever needed, provides the necessary help.

Q. Other churches and religions, especially in the West, see this relationship between the Armenian state and the Apostolic Church as unfair or unacceptable. They see a contradiction in the principle of separation of church and state. How would you respond to these views?

Melkonian: We have to look at the issue in terms of what the purpose and meaning of existence of any given church is.  We could say that it is to preach the Gospel among its people and bring them closer to God in their daily lives, i.e., to make the truths of the Gospel part of their daily lives. On the other hand, any government is concern to have a healthy population and part of that health is the spiritual education of the people. Therefore, if our government has faith in the missionary role of the Armenian Apostolic Church and her historical values, is this a sin or a blessing? I believe this is a benefit, an advantage.  Hence, the purpose of the government is to facilitate the mission of the church for the moral welfare of the people.  The government sees the church in her role as provider of spiritual-moral education. Each and every church in the West or elsewhere has the right to question this relationship. But they have to look at what it is they are doing among their people that we are not doing in Armenia. Our church-state relationship in Armenia is for the benefit of our people. Of course it is the church that will decide what is needed for the spiritual and moral welfare of the people and not the government.  The government would only help the church in her mission. This is our understanding of this issue.

We have to realize that our Church is different from other churches. She is also a national symbol. Today, we cannot forget overnight the symbolic identification of the church .  For centuries, our church has created our culture and the government cannot disregard this aspect of our history.  For example, can you image a case where the government would consider a Gospel manuscript a purely religious object and would not be concerned about its preservation.  It would seem irresponsible. If  a manuscript needs preservation and the church does not have the means to do it, then the government will preserve it.  This is what we mean by religious values—the cultural memory of the people.  The state is the guardian of that cultural memory of the people and it cannot remain indifferent to it.

Q. If I understand you correctly, church and state relations in Armenia are determined by concern over the spiritual and moral welfare of the Armenian nation and that this concern is part of the nation and state building process. Right?

Melkonian: Of course. I would add that the Church, in certain circumstances, could also help the state.  For example, Armenia is today in a very difficult economic situation and the government is doing everything to improve it.  The church can play a role in this situation by giving people the spiritual strength to endure hardship and by instilling in them a spirit of patience and courage.  I cannot imagine the existence of a person only in the reading of the Gospel. The Gospel should become alive in his life.  No religion can be self-serving.  The purpose of all religions is man himself.  Therefore, when the government helps the church to make man a better man, I see this as a positive thing—as something we can be happy about. The other extreme is to have a government or structures which are not interested in these issues at all.  We have seventy years experience of that. We were doing everything, closing churches, forbidding baptisms, even if someone had the word Ter [meaning priest] in their names, as in Ter Petrossian, we were telling them take out Ter—Petros is enough.  Well, if this is separation of church and state, it is very wrong. We cannot allow this to happen.

Any state is responsible toward the history of a given nation.  Take the case of Jerusalem for example: the Israeli government has made the status of Jerusalem a matter of international politics. Why? Because the religious sentiments and values connected with Jerusalem are very important for the Jewish people. Otherwise, why would the Israeli government be concerned about who is going to live in Jerusalem?  The city has great importance in the Jewish religious ethos and the government wants to preserve it as such. It is the same for the Palestinians—they want to hold on to Jerusalem because it is a center of their national religious heritage.  Thus, if this kind of concern is permissible for governments in other countries, why isn’t it permissible for Armenia as well? There are other examples of this, such as Saudi Arabia, England, etc. The protection and preservation of national values, including religious values, is the responsibility of the state.    n

This interview was conducted

in Beirut, Lebanon,

on April 21, 1995.

Translated from Armenian

by H. Tchilingirian.

Women and the Armenian Church

H.H. Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians,

on the occasion of the

UN Fourth International Conference on Women in Beijing

I heartily welcome all sisters in God who are assembled in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. I pray God that their deliberations may promote the women’s growing participation in human life in today’s world. Hereunder I share with you some of my thoughts in the light of your interest.

1. Women are part and parcel, integral component of humankind; their involvement in their respective societies is of paramount significance for the betterment of the quality of human life taken in a holistic approach. Whatever God has granted to womanly human nature should be fully shared with all human beings without any kind of discrimination. Their grace is God’s gift, and human beings and considerations of societal and sociological character should not prevent women from offering the fruits of that grace to all humankind.

2. Women have always been present and often very active in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the life of His church. The Armenian Church Tradition is eloquent in providing ample evidence for the women’s impact-making role in the life of the Armenian people all along the past twenty centuries. The first Armenian person who ever gave her life for the sake of Christ was a women, St. Santoukht, in the first century. Women in Armenian life have been preachers, educators, members of Religious Orders, benefactors, most active servants in social services, mothers par excellence, even martyrs in defense of and for the lively preservation of the Christian faith.

3. The Armenian Church does not allow the priestly ordination for women. This attitude should never be considered as an attitude of discrimination. The Church follows the Tradition (with a capital T) and has to respect that Tradition. The question of ordination of women has never emanated from the life of the Armenian Church. It has been considered as a foreign question that has not affected the life of the Church. Women in the Armenian Church are fully satisfied with their active engagement in all aspects and areas of service of the Church.

4. Divorce and remarriage are allowed in the Armenian Church but only on grounds of the teachings of the Gospel. Divorce is possible but most difficult to acquire, because the Church does preach the sanctity of marriage and does everything possible to promote normal life, particularly in modern societies, and which have to be handled in the spirit of mutual sacrifices.

5. The sanctity of human life is recognized above all considerations. Life is the gift of God and should be respected on all levels and in all cases. The refusal of abortion emanates from such basic principle as taught in the Bible and in the Tradition of the Church. However, the Armenian Church has not formulated any dogmatic stand on this matter. It tries to build up and cultivate this principle in the hearts and minds of its people recognizing their freedom to exercise such principle according to their Christian conscience and moral responsibility.

6. In Armenia of today I rejoice by seeing the role of women in constant growth. As the head of the Church I think I was first Catholicos of All Armenians in whose election women took part.

7. Surely, the Church is not a political institution. Political engagements is not its immediate and primary concern. Political issues and actions are left to the State and to political parties. The Church only comes in and speaks and acts on such issues which are described as political but have a bearing on moral, spiritual values, particularly when these latter are not given full consideration or are being violated. This is why the Armenian Church manifests its concern for the genocide perpetrated against the Armenian nation by the Turks in 1915 to 1920s. For human life has been destroyed and the consequences of the genocide continue to affect the Armenian life all around the world. The same concern the Church expresses for any other nation, people or group.

8. I sincerely believe that the United Nations is rendering a greatly beneficial service to human life of today and for the decades to follow, by enhancing the concern and the care of humankind for the advancement of women’s role in human life. Ancient injustices should be redressed and women should feel that they are equal to men in the eyes of God, the Creator of the world and the Giver of life.

Karekin I

Catholicos of All Armenians

Etchmiadzin, August 1995


An Armenian Voice

in the Moral Wilderness

Bebo Simonian on Social and Moral Issue

In contemporary Armenian community life, to read or hear about serious discussion on moral and social issues is a rare occasion—especially, issues that are outside the realm of Armenian national or ecclesiastical concerns. But Bebo Simonian, a voice in the wilderness, is an exception. A Lebanese-Armenian educator, essayist, and poet, Simonian is the author of Human Rights Issues (MardkaIrauanz Farz;r) which was recently published in Beirut, Lebanon (in Armenian).

Human Rights Issues, a collection of essays, raises awareness of issues that concern our world and society today.  The focus of Simonian’s discourse is the society in general, and the individual in particular. Organized under 29 headings,  Simonian discusses the problem of illiteracy in our age of enlightenment; the impact of nuclear proliferation on society and ecology; human rights violations around the world; the Armenian Genocide and the conflict in Karabakh as human rights issues; and other selected topics.  In the final essay of the book, Simonian presents the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi and his vision for social cohesion, according to which there cannot be politics without principles; science without humanity; pleasure without consciousness; business without morality. Based on Gandhi’s model, Simonian articulates a sobering thesis for restoration of basic human values in society, whereby the individual is transformed from self-centered materialism to a shared vision of moral and spiritual accountability. As Simonian explains the purpose of the book, “my intention is to communicate these issues and problems to my own community.  Therefore, I write in Armenian for Armenians”.

Bebo Simonian’s literary career expands over three decades. As a prolific writer and intellectual of the Lebanese-Armenian community, he has authored over dozen books and numerous articles on Armenian literature, culture, history and political life. From 1975-1995 he was the Dean of Sahagian L. Megerdichian College in Beirut.

During a conversation with Window, Simonian expressed some of his concerns—

Changes in Society

Our world has changed drastically during the last two decades, especially here in Lebanon—the civil war (for 17 years) has irreparably destroyed the moral fiber of our society.  Society—the community of spiritual and moral beings—is in a despondent process.  Our society is gradually losing its fundamental moral principles. As for us Armenians, we are also affected by these changes. Societal problems do not distinguish between nationalities—there is no difference between Armenian and ‘non-Armenian’ problems. An Armenian is a human being first, therefore, he is also affected by these changes.

Church and State

Separation of church and state does not mean the demise of religion’s role in society. On the contrary, it allows religion to play its role in public moral life. The state, as an institution, has a different structure than the church.  Religion or the church, should never aspire for political or state authority. The church’s raison d’être is to educate the faithful and tend to the spiritual and moral needs of the people.  As far as society as a whole is concerned, the church’s role is to ensure that democratic principles are adhered to—so that the state and society do not go astray and fall into violations of human rights.  The church has moral authority in society.  If there is breach of democratic principles in a country, the church should stand and defend the rights of society. Outside this realm, the church should not get involved in politics. Politics is ‘dirty’ and when the church gets involved in politics, it gets ‘dirty’ as well.  For example, here in Lebanon, when the Christians mixed religion and politics together, they discharged Christianity’s moral and religious ethos and turned it into an ideology of violence. The same trend could also be seen in Islamic fundamentalism, which is spreading rapidly around the Middle East.

On Christianity

Even though Christianity speaks about a ‘life after’, I believe Christianity is also for life here, in this world. Accordingly, Christianity should be made alive—real in everyday life.

Sources of Moral Values

The three most important institutions in a society are the family, the school and the community.

First, the family—the nucleus of society—transmits spiritual and moral values to the children. It is in the family where children become acquainted with their value systems and develop an understanding—as well as an appreciation—of values.

Second, the school environment and the teachers, as role models, are crucial in the developmental stages of a person’s life. If the teachers themselves do not have moral standing in life, then they cannot transmit the same to their students. Unfortunately, today many of our schools operate with teachers who hardly provide a role model to the students.  Many teachers take their work as a “job” for income, rather than a career or a ‘vocation’.  For most teachers, the school is a ‘business’—they come, teach their classes, and go home. There are very few teachers who take their role very seriously and feel a responsibility toward the education of their students.  For example, I tell my teaching staff that everyday—for at least ten minutes in the morning—they need to discuss with the students issues related to human relationships, communication, interaction, values and lifestyles. Besides these daily discussions, we also have weekly gatherings with the entire student body, where I make presentations and give short talks on, for example, how character and moral values are more important than having a diploma or a degree.

Third is the community.  Today,     the community is in a tangle, particularly here in Lebanon where we lived through a long civil war.  As in any war, the moral fiber of society is deminished.  The buildings that were destroyed by the war are repairable, but the rebuilding of the moral and spiritual soul of the Lebanese society is going to be very difficult—perhaps impossible. Before the war, there was sincerity in our human interactions, honesty, respect, values that enriched our lives. But today, we have a completely different scene. We need moral panacea to heal the social and spiritual wounds  of our society.

While Simonian’s presentations and prescripton pertain to the social and moral issues in the Middle East, the “Armenian voice” of his thoughts and critique make him one of the very few leaders in the Armenian diaspora who have the sensitivity and the courage to raise their prophetic voice. Simonian believes that a consistent dicourse on societal problems would enhance a complementary understanding between the individual and the community. As he affirms, “When we identify, address and disentangle our problems, we create a better chance of finding remedies.” HT

Beyond the Boundaries

of Ethnic Parochialism

Azadouhi Kalaidjian Simonian discusses issues

related to Youth and Education

The post-Cold War era has been a mixed blessing for the new world order. On the one hand, there is increasing interest in social, ecological, gender and moral issues facing the world, on the other hand, nationalism and politicized religion have dominated the central stage of public discourse.

The current wave of globalization and “universalism” of emerging modern culture needs to be examined in the context of micro-social concerns of a given community, in a given society. As the value systems and identity references of society are rapidly modified and changed, the old and the traditional are easily discarded as archaic conventions of yesterworld. Addressing the problems facing a community—especially during such complex social transitions—is a challenge to politicians, educators, scholars, and those who are concerned with the welfare of society.

Azadouhi Simonian— member of the faculty of the Lebanese American University—in Youth and Education (in Armenian, published by the Catholicosate of Cilicia, Antelias, 1995), addresses the “modern problems” of the Lebanese Armenian community. She presents a diagnosis of the issues concerning the youth, in particular, and the Armenian family in general, and suggests practical remedies based on her experience as an educator, columnist, activist, wife and mother. The thrust of Youth and Education evolves around youth-family, woman-culture axis. In discussing the overall education of the youth—academic, moral, religious, cultural—Simonian concentrates on the role of the Armenian woman in the education of the youth. She brings the Armenian woman out of the kitchen and assigns her a more active role in the social discourse of the community.

Comprised of ten essays, Youth and Education deals with a series of complimentary and overlapping topics, such as: The traditional and the new in modern society, religious-moral education in the family, rebellion in youth, parent-child relationship, the Armenian woman as educator, youth and the educational challenges of modern times, and others. Throughout the volume, the contextual framework of Simonian’s propositions is based on Armenian religious-moral values.

In the introductory essay of Youth and Education, Simonian explains the need for a balance between the “traditional” and the “modern”. She cautions the youth of the dangers of materialism, consumerism and opportunism—traits that have come to characterize modern society. In explaining the traditional and the new, Simonian writes:

The traditional is [one’s] culture. It is man’s [woman’s] creativity in the arts, literature, music, architecture and other related creative expressions. Through democracy, freedom of thought and expression, respect for human rights, education, family and religion, society sets the parameter of its function.

Civilization is the new, the modern. It is the technical, the scientific advancements and material achievements.

…The influence of the modern era is characterized by the stripping of the person from his/her traditionally upheld moral character and by emphasizing the material values [of modern life] (p. 9-10).

Without being anachronistic, Simonian weaves an appreciation of traditional values—i.e., proven wisdom of life and qualities that are important in the Armenian ethos—and blends them with the modern norms and demands of life.

While being sensitive to the particular socio-cultural idiosyncrasy of the Armenian community, she successfully widens the perspective of her community beyond the boundaries of its ethnic parochialism. Instead of treating Armenian educational, cultural and religious values as sources of exclusion, or differentiation, she presents them as sources of moral strength and wisdom to make a person a better person. The achievements of individuals are not measured by their academic education per se, but by their contribution to society, and ultimately to humanity.

Azadouhi Simonian, for over two decades, has been an active member of the Armenian community and has greatly contributed to the cause of Armenian women. Whether in her previous book, The Armenian Women, Family and Youth (in Armenian, 1988), or in this volume, or through her numerous lectures and seminars, Simonian has been among the few Armenian women who have had the courage to voice their convictions, and in time, have become the conscience of their community. HT

Book Reviews

Vigen Guroian, Ethics After Christendom:

Toward an Ecclesial Christian Ethics.

William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1995

Reviewed by Martin Oren

Ethics After Christendom is worth reading for several reasons, the first of which is Prof. Guroian’s penetrating analysis of contemporary American culture. The core of American values are no longer (if ever) communally Christian, but have become egocentric, privatistic, autonomous, and essentially secular. Ethics cannot rely on a moral common denominator in the culture. Indeed, public morality is increasingly constrictive of Christian behavior, to which silent strangulation mainstream Christianity has weakly acquiesced. Ethics, in the process, has lost its worship and liturgical context, not to mention its eschatological dimension.

Given such fundamental anarchy, Guroian refutes proposals from Martin Marty and others for a “public theology”, based upon collaboration between religious communities. Creedal and structural divisions are giving way to a progressive/orthodox dichotomy which cuts sharply through all denominations. Such external activities as “public” theologizing do not address this deep lesion in the very heart of the Church.

The only hopeful road the Church can take is an internal one. Christian Tradition, the living embodiment of the practices of the Church community through time, stands in stark contrast to the traditionless autonomy of the present culture. Tradition is not a static body of material received from the past, but nothing less than the ultimate pursuit of the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Christ, who is the alpha and omega of history, provides ethics with its eschatological goal.

The process of ecclesial ethics is dialogic, incorporating scriptural teaching, apostolic teaching, and liturgical practice. Through the internal discipline of the church community, an icon emerges for the civil commonwealth as well: “ The church seeks not merely the salvation of individuals but the reclamation of the fallen social, political, and economic life of mankind.”

On the proper context and use of the Bible in Orthodox ethics, the distinctive contribution of Orthodoxy is that it maintains the larger liturgical framework within which the Bible can function: “ The liturgy is Scripture’s home rather than it’s stepchild.” Ethics is communal, nurturing the existential unity of word and sacrament. The incarnation of the eucharist is extended to the world as the believing community becomes the social embodiment of evangelical truth. This is the true completion of the hermeneutical circle, and this communal obedience is the bedrock for all theological speculation.

Guroian devotes a chapter of the book to a discussion of the Armenian Church and the inherent dangers of nationalism. The Church faces a unique kind of secular contamination in Armenia, where the hierarchy has gravitated towards a self-appointedmonopoly over the religious life of the people. The danger of the larger mission of the Church being reduced to a nationalistic agenda is very real. The thoughts of D. Bonhoeffer and T. Nersoyan are weighed, and the Armenian Church is viewed as an insitution subordinating her true missionary calling to the interests of ethnic preservation. The answer here is not to forsake or deny national concerns, but to return to the primary concerns of renewing ecclesial discipline and building community. In the process, the principle of free growth in the churches of Armenia must not be resisted. The elements of free gathering can profitably coexist with national elements in the Church. Both share a common transcendant goal, but ethnic preservation can be more suitably addressed by political agencies. Indeed, a genuinely ecumenical Church, free of a narrowly ethnic agenda, would be of the greatest service to the nation.

The final portion of the book consists in the application of the liturgy to particular contemporary issues: family values, the ecology, and death and dying.

This book is not an ethical encyclopedia; it is an introduction to self-conscious Orthodox ethical method, which cries out for further development in various directions. The strength of the book lies in its bold and uncompromising ecclesiology. Christian ethics must grow out of the heart of the Church, which we find in her liturgical life. When there is discord in the orchestra pit, it is ludicrous to expect symphonia in the balcony. Especially in the West, the Church must stop preaching at the outside and start fixing the inside. St. Paul, in all his apostolic splendor, refused to judge the world. Yet, he held the Church accountable to her calling, corporately and individually. The church today is a flurry of external activity, a vain attempt to mask her diseased spirit. Projects and activities can be manufactured, buildings can be bought; being cannot be counterfeited. Guroian provides suggestions as to how the Church could remain true to her mission within the context of her Holy Tradition. Ethics after Christendom is an importnat contribution to the study of Orthodox ethics and contemporary ecclesiological issues.

Guroian is also the author of two other books: Incarnate Love: Essays in Orthodox Ethics (University of Notre Dame, Indiana, 1987);and  Faith, Church, Mission: Essays for Renewal in the Armenian Church (Prelacy of the Armenian Church, New York, 1995).

Amnesty International

Attacks on minority religious groups in Armenia

Amnesty International called on the authorities [of the Republic of Armenia] to initiate comprehensive investigation after minority religious groups were targeted in a wave of attacks in various parts of the country in April [1995]. Groups of unidentified men are said to have attacked meetings and premises, beaten sect members and destroyed property. The attackers reportedly accused religious leaders of preaching against the conscription of young men into military (Armenia has no civilian alternative to compulsory military service) and of discouraging their members from fighting in Karabakh. Some sect leaders were also said to have been detained briefly by police and border guards seeking to enforce conscription. Amnesty International is concerned about allegations that attackers acted with impunity in many cases, especially in the light of previous reports that police refused to respond to attacks against Hare Krishna devotees in August 1994 (see AI Index: EUR 01/01/95). The organization has yet to receive a response to the concerns it raised over this incident.

The violent attacks are reported to have begun on 18 April when around 20 men in military uniforms armed with iron rods entered the Hare Krishna temple in Yerevan, the capital, and began beating the devotees and destroying property. Devotees claim the police again refused to attend when called, although five of their members needed stitches for head wounds and the attackers stole electrical equipment and a large sum of cash. Other incidents reported included serious damage to a Seventh Day Adventist church in Ararat after a firebomb was thrown through the window on 22 April, and attacks at around the same time on the offices of the Bahai and Charismatic churches in Yerevan during which documents and equipment were stolen or destroyed. Leaders of Pentecostal, Evangelical Baptist and Jehovah’s Witness congregations were also detained briefly by the authorities in connection with allegations of draft evasion.

Amnesty International urged the authorities to ensure all such incidents were investigated comprehensively—with perpetrators of the attacks brought to justice—and to take all necessary steps to ensure that religious groups are able to exercise their right to freedom of conscience in safety. The organization also expressed its concern over the continuing lack of a civilian alternative to compulsory military service. Conscientious objection to military service is recognized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, religion and conscience, a right guaranteed under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Armenia acceded in 1993). In the light of this, the organization urged the authorities to ensure that no one is imprisoned solely for refusing to perform military service on grounds of conscience, and that no conscientious objectors are forcibly conscripted into the armed forces in the absence of an alternative civilian service.

Source: Amnesty International/”Concerns in Europe, January – June 1995”. September 1995, AI Index: EUR 01/02/95, Distr: SC/CO/GR


Pontifical Election in Antelias

Catholicos Aram I

Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia

On July 1, 1995, Archbishop Aram Keshishian, Primate of the Diocese of Lebanon and Moderator of the World Council of Churches, was consecrated Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon. For the first time in the history of the Armenian Church, the Catholicos of All Armenians presided over the ordination and consecration of a new Catholicos of the Cilician See. The respective patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem were also present. Just as in the case of the election of Catholicos Karekin I in Etchmiadzin, in April, the consecration ceremonies in Antelias were attended by ecumenical and government representatives from around the world.

Throughout the election and consecration process, church unity was a prevalent theme in all of Catholicos Aram I’s public comments. “He stressed the need to promote the unity of the church, through collaboration with the Holy See of Etchmiadzin,” affirmed Catholicos Karekin I, who has espoused the same ideal for nearly a decade.

Church Unity

Contrary to popular perception, church unity does not mean the merger of the two Sees (Etchmiadzin and Cilicia) into one See. In essence, church unity—in its historical context—means going back to pre-1956 status of relationship between the two Sees, i.e., the Cilician See will return to its “historical area of jurisdiction” which include Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.  In the 1950s, due to the internal and external problems in the Armenian  Diaspora, the Cilician See established counter dioceses in the United States, Iran and Greece. Thus, the “division” in the church is on diocesan and jurisdictional levels. Until 1956, the two Sees had very good relations and complemented each others work by sharing their resources and personnel.  As Khachik Babikian—Chairman of the World National Church Assembly of the Cilician See—stated, with the election of Catholicos Karekin, “there should be a very harmonious relationship between the Sees. That is the harvest that we will reap from these historic events.”

In practical terms, church unity means the resolution of the diocesan divisions in North America, Iran and Greece—the first being the most controversial. High ranking  officials both in Etchmiadzin and Antelias believe that, with the election of Karekin I as Catholicos of All Armenians, the modus operandi  of the Armenian Church will change and in time, the issue of diocesan divisions will be solved.   As the new Catholicos, Aram I of the Cilician See stated, “Due to particular circumstances within the one and the same Armenian Church two Catholicosates have emerged in the course of history. The existence of two independent Catholicosates is still vital necessity for many reasons. Therefore, we are called and urged by our church and people all over the world to work together within the context of and with the profound sense of belonging to one church and one people avoiding all kinds of dualities and competitions which harm our unity. We must become co-workers assisting each other in our common mission.”

It remains to be seen whether such discussion will trickle down to the rank and file clergy and laity. For now, the prospects of church unity are not very bright. It is expected that the status quo of the Armenian Church will remain the same in the next few years, with only some cosmetic changes.


Catholicos Aram I Keshishian was born in Beirut, in 1947. He was educated at the Armenian Seminary in Antelias, the Near East School of Theology, the American University of Beirut, the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, Switzerland, and Fordham University, New York, where he received his Ph.D. degree in systematic and contemporary theology and ecumenics.

He was ordained a priest in 1968. While studying at Fordham University, he was elected locum tenens of the diocese of Lebanon in 1978.  Subsequently, in 1979 he was elected primate of Lebanon and received episcopal ordination from H.H. Karekin II in 1980.

Having been a very active in the ecumenical movement, he is currently the Moderator of the World Council of Churches. His term of office ends in 1998. He has authored a dozen volumes on contemporary theological and ecumenical issues, among them: The Will of Rebuilding (Armenian); The Witness of the Armenian Church in a Diaspora Situation; The Christian Witness at the Crossroads in the Middle East; Conciliar Fellowship: a model of unity; Orthodox Perspective on Mission (English); as well as numerous essays and articles in Armenian, French, English, Arabic and ecumenical publications.  -HT

Catholicos Karekin I’s

address on the occasion of consecration of

Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia

July 1, 1995  • Antelias, Lebanon

Faithful and loyal people of God and children of the Armenia nation:

This day is one of the most joyous days in the history of the Armenian Church. This day is one of the most luminous and beautiful days in the long and continuous, centuries-old history of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Today, the Armenian Church in its entirety is here—one heart, one soul, one will, and one vision. Today, on behalf of all of you, dipping my pen in the blood that flows out of our hearts, I sign this day as one of the happiest and most meaningful pages of Armenian history. I kneel down with most humble feelings, and looking up to heaven, I give thanks to God for granting me, his lowly and humble servant, the honor to become the conduit of this most joyous occasion. Here in Antelias, I myself received Catholicossal consecration and today I performed Catholicossal consecration.

Three months ago, in our Armenian nation’s holiest of holies—the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin—by the election of the nation, I was called to the most difficult and supreme responsibility by becoming Catholicos of All Armenians.  Glory to you O God, that I received Catholicossal consecration in this Cathedral and today, through my weak hands, that same consecration is passed onto my dear brother, Catholicos Aram.  I have with me the respective Patriarchs of Holy Jerusalem and Constantinople, archbishops and bishops from all of our Hierarchical Sees: the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, Pariarchate of Jerusalem and Pariarchate of Constan-tinople.

Dear Friends, today the Armenian Church extended a golden bridge of unity and wholeness in the panorama of its history. I pray that this wholeness may remain solid, healthy and progressive in the service of God and in the service of our people and church.

The second source of my happiness is the fact that I was granted the great fortune to be the first Catholicos of All Armenians who was elected and enthroned at a time when our fatherland, Armenia, is an independent state.

Today, dear Brother [Catholicos Aram], you also are consecrated at a time when our fatherland is independent and when there is a rebirth in the life of the Diaspora. These realities place upon you huge responsibilities to further advance the process of rebirth in the life of our church and nation.

The third source of my happiness is the fact that this consecration is taking place on the soil of our dear Lebanese fatherland, in the presence of the most honorable President, His Excellency Elias Heraui, and those high ranking officials who accompany him: the Prime Minister, representative of the President of the Parliament, and other government and parliamentary officials, as well as representatives of foreign diplomatic missions.

Lebanon also is living a period of rebirth, and you, [dear Brother], as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, having your headquarters on this Lebanese soil—where I lived and worked for forty-four years—also bring the complete and unreserved participation of our people in the rebuilding of the Lebanese fatherland.

Finally, the fourth source of my happiness is the fact that the heads and representatives of all Christian churches—from the East and the West—are with us. I greet you all. The unity of our Armenian Church is further strengthened by the expression of the spirit of unity of the Christian Church.

May God bless this Catholicossal consecration and may He make it a source of goodness for our people—not only within the boundaries of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, but also for the entire Armenian Church. As the new pontiff [Aram I] himself affirmed right after his election, and as we have announced it many times  in the Mother See of Etchmiadzin—the Armenian Church does not have any other path, but the path of united cooperation. For this I feel extremely happy because I am one of the servants of that unity and its practical expression. May God make me worthy to see more of those bright days.

I pray with these wishes. Our Church—the hope and light of the Armenians, the source of our unity—may remain unshakable for the glory of God, for the pride of our people, for the edification of our motherland, and for the growth of our Lebanese fatherland, forever, Amen.

*Translated by H. Tchilingirian

T h a n k


L o r d

by Panos Arslanian

Amid unfriendly gestures,

On which is built our lives,

When our tongues are blades

of sword,

I try to cool down and say

thank you Lord.

To be in a hurry running everywhere,

Days and nights reach nowhere,

When darkness makes our sight

too short,

I kneel and sigh

thank you Lord.

To see goodness in a world full of hate,

To be calm in a life full of rage,

When no one is ready to hear

His word,

I fall down and cry

thank you Lord.

Among souls sweet and gentle,

Celebrate life where everyone burns

like a candle.

When everywhere are found workers in His fields,

I rejoice and claim

thank you Lord.

To be assured that we will

be rewarded,

For a life full of deeds is recorded,

When our joy is a heavenly home,

I sing aloud and say

thank you Lord!


L i f e ’ s

s o    s w e e t

by Panos Arslanian

When you see life in itself,

You’ve got to know just for yourself,

Pleasure is meant to do you good,

Unless you find someone to soothe.

Sweet so sweet is life for you,

But don’t forget your child needs you,

To love him is your greatest duty,

Help him to grow in God truly.

Life’s so sweet unless you find,

A poor, a needy to help,

They all will wait on you because,

You’re the one for them God chose.

So sweet and bright life is to be,

When you try to set yourself free,

From your duties all day ahead,

To whom the Lord wants you to send.

M y   P r a y e r

by Panos Arslanian

Lord, my gentle refuge,

Lord, my unfailing bodyguard,

Lord, my sacred communion,

Lord, my simple companion,

Lord, my daily provider,

Lord, my righteous lawyer,

Lord, my endless forgiver,

Lord, my highest sanctity,

Lord, my patient teacher,

Lord, my great faith,

Lord, my divine treasure,

Lord, my humble prayer.


Window  Quarterly

Window View of the Armenian Church

Vol. I—Vol. V



Armenia (Republic of)

• Apostolic Church

“Rise! Take up your Pallet and Walk” (V. Movsesian) Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

“As For Those Who Say” (V. Movsesian) Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

“Religious Awakening in Armenia” (A. Mgrdtchian) Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

“The Armenian Church: Glasnost without Perestroika?” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

“Diary of an American Priest in Armenia” (Y. Kelegian) Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Painful Concerns: The Slow revival of the Church in Armenia” (Abp. H. Derderian) Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“A Bishop in Cassock and Reeboks” (M. Findikyan) Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“The End of the Beginning” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Church in the Disaster Zone”, interview with Fr. Sebouh Tchouldjian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Price of Freedom”, interview with His Holiness Vazken I, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“‘Churchlovers’ Who Minister, interview with Hamlet Zakarian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Harvest of the Laborers”, interview with Fr. Mesrob Aramian. Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“The Church on the Airwaves”, interview with Silva Sukiasian, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“Nation Building and the Church, Reflections on the Mission of the Armenian Church Today”, interview with His Holiness Karekin II, Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

*Theme of Vol. III, No. 1, 1992/The Church in Armenia: Putting the Pieces Together.

• Church and State

“Church & State In Armenia”, interview with Ludwig Khachadrian,  Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Cross and Gavel”, interview with Martin Tadevossian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Armenia and the Vatican”, interview with Vahan Papazian, Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.

“From Philology to Diplomacy”, interview with Yervant Melkonian, Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.

• Church and Political Parties

“A Matter of Conscience: The Armenian Revolutionary Federation”, interview with Masis Baghdasarian and Khajag Megerditchian,  Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Armenian Christian Democratic Union”, interview with Vardan Khachatrian and  Aram Mkrtchian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

• Cults

“I Didn’t Want to Struggle”, interview with an Armenian Hare Krishna, Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

“Armenian ‘Skinheads’”, interview with Levon Krikorian and Artak Zakarian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

*Theme of Vol. II, No. 1, 1991/Cults in Ar-menia.

Catholicos (election)

“Pontifical Election and the National Ecclesiastical Assembly” (M. Findikyan) Vol. IV, No. 2, 1992.

“Going for the Gold” (V. Movsesian) Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

“Champagne Spirituality and Pontifical Dreams. The Election of a New Catholicos in Perspective” (V. Nersesian) Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

“From Antelias to Etchmiadzin: A Chronology” (V. Movsesian & H. Tchilingirian) Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Did We Need to Elect a Catholicos?” (V. Movsesian) Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Pontifical Election in Antelias: Catholicos Aram I, Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

*Theme of Vol. IV, No. 2, 1992/His Holiness Vazken I Catholicos of All Armenians.

*Theme of Vol. V, No. 1&2, 1995/A Catholicos for the 21st Century.

Catholics (Armenian)

“The Armenian Catholics” (H. Kosdeghian) Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“An Armenian as Pope? A British Diplomatic Report on Cardinal Agagianian, 1958 (Ara Sanjian) Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.


“Beneath the Collar” (V. Movsesian) Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“Where Does The Buck Stop?” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“Priests Do Not Fall From Heaven” (M. Findikyan) Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“The International Conference of Armenian Clergy” (V. Movsesian) Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

*Theme of Vol. I, No. 4, 1990/Is the Collar Choking the Armenian Priest?

*Theme of Vol. II, No. 2, 1991/International Conference of Armenian Clergy


“What Is A Cult?” (N. Odabashian) Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

“Sects in Armenian History” (V. Nersesian) Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

Death (see also Euthanasia )

“Death of an AIDS Victim” (T. Abdalian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“The Final Act” (G. Doudoukjian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“The Boy Who Sang the Psalms” (V. Movsesian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

Denominations (Armenian)

*Theme of Vol. II, No. 3, 1991/Are All Brands the Same?


• church and community

“Looking through a Window of Love” (V. Movsesian) Vol. I, No. 1, 1990.

“…That You Love One Another” (T. Abdalian) Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Armenian Church and the Believer” (M. Sarafian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

“Window: Ending Denial” (V. Movsesian) Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

• Mission of the Armenian Church

“A Pious Minimalism” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. I, No. 1, 1990

“Toward a Diaspora Theology” (V. Guroian) Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

“Mission in the Diaspora: Mary’s Example” (V. Guroian) Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

“Yes, Even Here in America” (V. Movsesian) Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Nation Building and the Church, Reflections on the Mission of the Armenian Church Today”, interview with His Holiness Karekin II, Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

“The Witness of the Armenian Church in the Diaspora”, interview with Archbishop Aram Keshishian, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

• Non-Armenians in the church

“Good Idea, But Thanks…. The Challenge of Non-Armenians to the Armenian Church Hierarchy” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

“The Power of Truth” (D. Luhrssen) Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

“Knocking at the Door”, interview with Tim Robinson, (A. Boyd) Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

“Pentecost: Fling Open the Windows. Fling Open the Doors” (P. Shaw) Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.

*Theme of Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994/Journey to a Promised Land: Non Armenians in the Armenian Church.

• Youth

“The Lost Generation: An Armenian Church Scenario” (D. Shahinian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“1968 Williams Bay Maniffest” Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“1992 A Call to Excellence” Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.


“Georges Florovsky’s Model of Orthodox Ecclesiology” (L. Shaw) Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Living Covenant as the Beginning of Orthodox Theology” (L. Shaw) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.


“Eco-Theology. Towards an Ecumenical Ethic for a Responsible Society in a Sustainable Creation” (Abp. A. Keshishian) Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.


“Unity Efforts Between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches”,  interview with Archbishop Aram Keshishian, Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.

“The Delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Enthronement Ceremony of Karekin I”, interview with Hojatolislam Valmuslimi Sobhaniia, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“On the Vatican and the Armenian Church”, interview with Cardinal Edward Cassidy, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Armenia and the Vatican”, interview with Vahan Papazian, Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.

*Theme of Vol. IV. No. 4, 1994/Oikoumene: In the Spirit of the Times.


“What is Good Death? Issues Related to Death and Dying” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“Death: One More Pain to Avoid?” (V. Movsesian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

*Theme of Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993/Death: The Kevorkian Factor.


“Fallen Grains of Wheat” (V. Movsesian) Vol. 1, No. 3, 1990.

“How Shall We Remember?” (V. Guroian) Vol. I, No. 3, 1990.

“Canonization of the Genocide Victims” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. I, No. 3, 1990.

*Theme of Vol. I, No. 3, 1990/The Year the Armenian Church Died 1915-1990.

Hypocrisy (in the Church)

“Hypocrisy: The Deadliest Sin” (E. Antreassian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

“Why I Left the Armenian Church” (L. Kalemkerian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

“Cause for Reflection” (Y. Kelegian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

“A Wake Up Call” (Y. Kelegian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

*Theme of Vol. III, No. 2, 1993/Hypocrisy: Are We Passing by the Cross of Christ?


“The Light from the East: Fervor of Faith in Karabakh” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“A Theology of War: Faith and Evangelism in Karabakh”, interview with Bishop Barkev Mardirosian, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

*Theme of Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994/A Theology of War.


“English as the Language of the Church in America” (A. Dolarian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Liberation Theology

“Liberation and Witness” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

*Theme of Vol. I, No. 2, 1990/In Search of an Armenian Theology of Liberation.


“Medicine and Spirituality” (G. Semerdjian) Vol. III, No. 3&4.


“What is Myth?” (P. Shaw) Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“Testing the Myth and Beyond” (V. Movsesian & H. Tchilingirian) Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

*Theme of Vol. II, No. 4, 1992/Testing the Myth and Beyond.


“Parents and the Church” (M. Cholakian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Priest(s) (see clergy)

Protestants (Armenian)

“The Armenian Protestants: A Brief History” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Rethinking Armenian Protestantism” (V. Movsesian) Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.


“From Baku to Hartford. The Plight of Armenian Refugees Faced With Indifference” (T. Abdalian) Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.


“Chrismation in the Oriental Orthodox Church” (G. Kochakian) Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“A Sacrifice of Praise: Blessing of Madagh” (M. Findikyan) Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“Reflections on the Canon of Funeral” (G. Leylegian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“English as the Language of the Church in America” (A. Dolarian) Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.


“Canonization of the Genocide Victims” (H. Tchilingirian) Vol. I, No. 3, 1990.

“The Lost Meaning of Sainthood” (V. Guroian) Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.


“Toward a Theology of Science” (R. Kirby) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“Medicine and Spirituality” (G. Semerdjian) Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.


“On the Vatican and the Armenian Church”, interview with Cardinal Edward Cassidy, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Armenia and the Vatican”, interview with Vahan Papazian, Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.


Abdalian, Tateos

“…That You Love One Another”, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Death of an AIDS Victim”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“From Baku to Hartford. The Plight of Armenian Refugees Faced With Indifference”, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

Aljalian, Serop

“St. Nersess the Graceful: Chaos and the Need for Reform”, Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

Antreassian, Elise

“Hypocrisy: The Deadliest Sin”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Boyd, Arlene

“Knocking at the Door”, interview with Tim Robinson, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

Cholakian, Martin

“Parents and the Church”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Derderian, Hovnan

“Painful Concerns: The Slow revival of the Church in Armenia”, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Dolarian, Ara

“English as the Language of the Church in America”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Doudoukjian, Gregory

“The Final Act”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

Findikyan, Michael

“Priests Do Not Fall From Heaven”, Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“A Sacrifice of Praise: Blessing of Madagh”, Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“A Bishop in Cassock and Reeboks”, Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“Pontifical Election and the National Ecclesiastical Assembly”, Vol. IV, No. 2, 1992.

Guroian, Vigen

“Toward a Diaspora Theology”, Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

“How Shall We Remember?”, Vol. I, No. 3, 1990.

“The Lost Meaning of Sainthood”, Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“Mission in the Diaspora: Mary’s Example”, Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

Kalemkerian, Louise

“Why I Left the Armenian Church”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Kelegian, Yeprem

“Diary of an American Priest in Armenia”, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Cause for Reflection”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

“A Wake Up Call”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Keshishian, Aram

“Eco-Theology. Towards an Ecumenical Ethic for a Responsible Society in a Sustainable Creation”, Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.

Khosdeghian, Hovannes

“The Armenian Catholics”, Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

Kirby, Richard

“Toward a Theology of Science”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

Kochakian, Garabed

“Chrismation in the Oriental Orthodox Church”, Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

Krikorian, Adrienne

“Armenia: A Historical Survey”, Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

Leylegian, George A

“Reflections on the Canon of Funeral”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

Luhrssen, Dave

“The Power of Truth”, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

Mgrdtchian, Abraham

“Religious Awakening in Armenia”, Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

Movsesian, Vazken

“Looking through a Window of Love”, Vol. I, No. 1, 1990.

“Rise! Take up your Pallet and Walk”, Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

“Fallen Grains of Wheat”, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1990.

“Beneath the Collar”, Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“As For Those Who Say”, Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

“The International Conference of Armenian Clergy”, Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

“Rethinking Armenian Protestantism”, Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Testing the Myth and Beyond”, with H. Tchilingirian, Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“Yes, Even Here in America”, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Death: One More Pain to Avoid?”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“The Boy Who Sang the Psalms”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“Window: Ending Denial”, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“Going for the Gold”, Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

“From Antelias to Etchmiadzin: A Chronology”, with H. Tchilingirian, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Did We Need to Elect a Catholicos?”, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Redirecting the Window Light”, Vol. V No. 3 & 4, 1995.

Nersessian, Nerses V.

“Sects in Armenian History”, Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

“Champagne Spirituality and Pontifical Dreams. The Election of a New Catholicos in Perspective”, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

Odabashian, Norman

“What Is A Cult?”, Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

Oren, Martin

Book Review: Ethics After Christendom by V. Guroian”, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

Panossian, R

“Wounded in the Jungle”, interview with an Armenian ex-priest, Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

Sarafian, Mesrob

“The Armenian Church and the Believer”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Sanjian, Ara

“An Armenian as Pope? A British Diplomatic Report on Cardinal Agagianian, 1958”, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995

Semerdjian, Gregory

“Medicine and Spirituality”, Vol. III, No. 3&4.

Sedrakian, Armen

“I Didn’t Want to Struggle”, interview with an Armenian Hare Krishna, Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

Shahinian, Dean

“The Lost Generation: An Armenian Church Scenario”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

Shaw, Lewis

“Georges Florovsky’s Model of Orthodox Ecclesiology”, Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Living Covenant as the Beginning of Orthodox Theology”, Vol. III, No. 2, 1993.

Shaw, Paige Lindsey

“What is Myth?”, Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“Pentecost. Fling Open the Windows. Fling Open the Doors”, Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.

Tchilingirian, Hratch

“A Pious Minimalism”, Vol. I, No. 1, 1990

“Liberation and Witness”, Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

“Canonization of the Genocide Victims”, Vol. I, No. 3, 1990.

“Where Does The Buck Stop?”, Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“The Armenian Church: Glasnost without Perestroika?”, Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

“The Armenian Protestants: A Brief History”, Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Testing the Myth and Beyond”, with V. Movsesian, Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“The End of the Beginning”, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“What is Good Death? Issues Related to Death and Dying”, Vol. III, No. 3&4, 1993.

“The Light from the East: Fervor of Faith in Karabakh”, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“Good Idea, But Thanks…. The Challenge of Non-Armenians to the Armenian Church Hierarchy”, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

“From Antelias to Etchmiadzin: A Chronology”, with V. Movsesian, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Pontifical Election in Antelias: Catholicos

Aram I, Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia”, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

“An Armenian Voice in the Moral Wilderness: Bebo Simonian on Social and Moral Issues”, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

“Beyond the Boundaries of Ethnic Parochialism: Azadouhi Simonian discusses issues related to Youth and Education”, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

• Interviews

“Church & State In Armenia”, interview with Ludwig Khachadrian,  Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“A Matter of Conscience: The Armenian Revolutionary Federation”, interview with Masis Baghdasarian and Khajag Megerditchian,  Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Cross and Gavel”, interview with Martin Tadevossian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Armenian Christian Democratic Union”, interview with Vardan Khachatrian and Aram Mkrtchian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Armenian ‘Skinheads”, interview with Levon Krikorian & Artak Zakarian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Church in the Disaster Zone”, interview with Fr. Sebouh Tchouldjian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“The Price of Freedom”, interview with His Holiness Vazken I, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“‘Churchlovers’ Who Minister, interview with Hamlet Zakarian, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“A Theology of War: Faith and Evangelism in Karabakh”, interview with Bishop Barkev Mardirosian, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“The Harvest of the Laborers”, interview with Fr. Mesrob Aramian. Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“The Church on the Airwaves”, interview with Silva Sukiasian, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

“Nation Building and the Church, Reflections on the Mission of the Armenian Church Today”, interview with His Holiness Karekin II, Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

“The Witness of the Armenian Church in the Diaspora”, interview with Archbishop Aram Keshishian, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

“Unity Efforts Between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches”,  interview with Archbishop Aram Keshishian, Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.

“The Delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Enthronement Ceremony of Karekin I”, interview with Sobhaniia, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“On the Vatican and the Armenian Church”, interview with Cardinal Edward Cassidy, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Armenia and the Vatican”, interview with Vahan Papazian, Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.

“From Philology to Diplomacy”, interview with Yervant Melkonian, Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.


Aramian, Fr. Mesrob, Editor of Kantzasar Theological Review, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

Baghdasarian, Masis, Member of the Central Committee of ARF, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Cassidy, Cardinal Edward, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the Vatican, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

Derderian, Bishop Hovnan, Primate of the Canadian Diocese, Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

Ex-Armenian Priest. Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

Karekin II, His Holiness Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

Keshishian, Archbishop Aram, Moderator of World Council of Churches and Primate of Armenian Diocese of Lebanon, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994 and Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.

Khachatrian, Ludwig, Minister of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

Khachatrian, Vardan, Executive Committee Member of the ACDU, Yerevan, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Krikorian, Levon, Armenian “skinhead”, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Krishna devotee, an Armenian Hare Krishna, Vol. II, No. 1, 1991.

Mardirosian, Bishop Barkev, Primate of the Diocese of Artzakh (Karabakh), Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

Megerditchian, Khajag, ARF Yerevan Bureau staff, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Melkonian, Yervant, Chargé d’Affairs of the Republic of Armenia in Lebanon, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

Mkrtchian, Aram, Executive Committee Member of the ACDU, Yerevan, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Oghlookian, Fr. Abel, Director of the Center for the Propagation of Faith, Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia, Vol. II, No. 2, 1991.

Papazian, Vahan, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

Robinson, Tim, candidate for priesthood, Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

Sobhaniia, Hojatolislam Valmuslimi, Member of Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

Sukiasian, Silva, Broadcast Journalist in Armenia, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1994.

Tadevossian, Martin, Judge of the Artik Region and Chairman of the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Shirak, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Tchouldjian, Fr. Sebouh, Vicar of the Diocese of Shirak, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Vazken I, His Holiness Catholicos of All Armenians, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Zakarian, Artak, Armenian “skinhead”, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

Zakarian, Hamlet, Chairman of the Brotherhood of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.


Encyclicals/Pontifical Addresses

“Address of His Holiness Vazken I to the delegates of the Armenian National Movement”, trans. H. Tchilingirian. Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.

“Address of His Holiness Vazken I, Catholicos of All Armenians, on the occasion of the Blessing of the Holy Chrism, 29 September 1991”, trans. V. Movsesian, Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Fatherly Advice: Joint Statement of Catholicoi Vazken I and Karekin II Regarding Religion in Armenia”. Vol. III, No. 1, 1992.

“Sermon of His Holiness Karekin I on the Occasion of his enthronement as the 131st Catholicos of All Armenians”, trans. H. Tchilingirian, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Inaugural Encyclical of His Holiness Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians”, trans. H. Tchilingirian, Vol. V, No. 3&4, 1995.

“Catholicos Karekin I’s address on the occasion of consecration of Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia”, trans. H. Tchilingirian. Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.

“Women and the Armenian Church”, statement issued by Catholicos Karekin I on the occasion of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Vol. V. No. 3&4, 1995.

“Excerpts from St. Nersess Shnorhali’s General Encyclical”, trans. S. Aljalian. Vol. I, No. 4, 1990.

“Khrimian Hayrig: The Paper Ladle”, trans. V. Movsesian. Vol. I, No. 2, 1990.


“Joint-Commission of the Theological Dialogue between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, September 23-28, 1990”. Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“Unity at What Cost? Reflections by the Orthodox Participants at the 7th Assembly of World Council of Churches, Australia”. Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

“The Vatican: Evangelization and Ecumenism in the Former Soviet Union. General Principles and Practical Norms. Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

“Joint Communiqué of Catholicos of All                Armenians and Patriarch of Moscow and All           Russia. 21 January 1993”. Vol. IV. No. 4,             1994.

“Joint Communiqué of Catholicos of All                Armenians and the Archbishop of Canterbury.             May 1993”. Vol. IV, No. 4, 1994.

“Amnesty International: Attacks on Minority           Religious Groups in Armenia”. Vol. V, No.             3&4, 1995.

Armenian Church assemblies

“Address of the President of the Republic of Armenia, Levon Ter Petrossian, to the National Ecclesiastical Assembly”, trans. H. Tchilingirian, Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

“Opening Remarks of Archbishop Vatche                 Hovsepian, President of the International           Conference of Armenian Clergy, June 17,         1991, New York”, trans. Window staff. Vol. II,             No. 2, 1991.

“ACYOA 1968 ‘Williams Bay Manifesto’”. Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.

“ACYOA 1992 ‘A Call to Excellence”. Vol. II, No. 4, 1992.


Armenian Clergy Victims of 1915 Genocide, Vol. I, No. 3, 1990.

Map of Religions, Vol. II, No. 3, 1991.

Candidates of 1995 Pontifical Election in Etchmiadzin. Vol. IV, No. 2, 1994.

Non-Armenian’s Perception of the Armenian Church Parish. Vol. IV, No. 3, 1994.

National Ecclesiastical Assembly: Where, What, Who, How Many. Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.

National Ecclesiastical Assembly: Geographic Distribution of Delegates. Vol. V. No. 1&2, 1995.


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Window – Vol. 5 No. 1 & 2 – 1995

Etchmiadzin in Cyberspace

page 2

Antelias to Etchmiadzin: A Chronology

page 3

Agenda/Officers of NEA

page 4

President Der Petrossian’s remarks at the NEA

page 5


page 6

Sermon of His Holiness Karekin I at Enthronement

page 7

Statistics from the NEA

page 10 & 11


page 12-15

Islamic & Catholic Leaders at Enthronement

page 16


page 17

Did we need to elect a Catholicos?

page 19

From the Publisher

Etchmiadzin in Cyberspace

The National Ecclesiastical Assembly of the Armenian Apostolic

Church convened for the first time in forty years to elect the new

Catholicos of All Armenians—April 3-5, 1995. On this historic occasion, Window Quarterly organized a special coverage of the election on the Internet, starting on March 26 and ending on April 9, 1995. “The election’s historic and practical implications for our Church today warranted the full use of our resources”, said Window  editor Fr. Vazken Movsesian.

Our daily feeds to the internet community through the SAIN system and the Groong Network,  provided wide pre and post election coverage from London, New York, San Jose, Rome, Athens, Beirut, Antelias, Yerevan and Etchmiadzin. It included exclusive interviews with delegates and candidates, updates on the proceedings of the NEA, election results and statistics—which were complimented with historical background on the election process in the Armenian Church. Window’s daily coverage became a primary source of information to hundreds of internet users, as well as to the Armenian media, such as: Noyan Tapan (Yerevan), Armenian Reporter International (New York), Asbarez (Los Angeles), Massis (Los Angeles), Armenian Television Network (Beirut), Armenian Radio Hour (Australia) and others.

Window’s field work for this purpose was headed by editor Hratch Tchilingirian, who was on the road for three weeks. He provided daily updates from England, Lebanon, Greece and Armenia until April 9, 1995.  “It was exciting to realize that history was being made by placing Etchmiadzin in cyberspace,” said Tchilingirian.  Excerpts from his coverage and interviews appear in this special issue of Window.


The Armenian Church Research & Analysis Group


Fr Vazken Movsesian

Hratch Tchilingirian

Art Director

Yn Susan Movsesian


Alice Atamian

electronic distributions

Roupen Nahabedian


Bruce Burr


Michael Findikyan

Abraham  Sldrian

Administrative  Assist. SOSI TOPJIAN-HINES

Layout & Logistics


The views expressed in Window are not necessarily those of the Armenian Church hierarchy. Window is an independent publication supported solely by reader subscriptions. Window is known as Loosamood in Republic of Armenia and Artzakh. Entire contents ©1995 Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group (ACRAG). All rights reserved. Use of original articles, translations, art work or photographs without the expressed permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited by law. All manuscripts submitted for publication become the property of ACRAG. Subscription information: Send name, address and $22.00 for each subscription to: Window Quarterly, P.O. Box 700664, San Jose, CA 95170. An electronic Version of Window is available on the St. Andrew Information Network (SAIN) System: 1-408-257-1846 or via the internet at Address all correspondence to: ACRAG. Window  is produced on Macintosh Computers and Laserset on an Apple LaserWriter 320, utilizing the ITC Bookman and ITC Avant Garde fonts. The SAIN Electronic forum is used extensively in compiling information for publication. Printed in the United States of America.  Window and the logo appearing on the cover are trademarks of ACRAG.  Macintosh, and LaserWriter are registered trademarks of Apple Computer.

© 1995 ACRAG

P.O. Box 700664,

San Jose, CA 95170

From Antelias to Etchmiadzin: A Chronology

Excerpts from Window’s Election coverage (March 26-April 9, 1995).

March 26 — Delegates from Armenian communities around the world begin their journey to Etchmiadzin, Armenia to participate in the National Ecclesiastical Assembly (NEA). Their mission is to elect a new Catholicos of All Armenians. The NEA is the highest legislative body of the Armenian Church. Its principle responsibilities are: a) Election of the Catholicos of All Armenians; b) Election of the members of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council; c) Establishment of  a national-ecclesiastical constitution; d) Examination and resolution of ecclesiastical issues; e) Stewardship of the church’s financial affairs.

The last National Ecclesiastical Assembly to elect a Catholicos of All Armenians was convened in 1955. The election was conducted much like that of any civic or church organization.

Following the funeral of Catholicos Vazken I (August 1994), Archbishop Vatché Hovsepian, Primate of the Western Diocese, was appointed person-in-charge of the 1995 election. His plans for next week’s election include the celebration of the divine liturgy prior to the election, requiring all delegates to receive holy communion and take an oath of office. As delegates arrive in Etchmiadzin they will be briefed as to their duties in selecting the next catholicos.

March 27 — Beirut — His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, is due to arrive in Armenia on Wednesday, March 29, 1995, to participate in the upcoming election.

In an interview in Antelias with Window Quarterly, H.H. Karekin II stated that, “At this critical moment in our history, the upcoming patriarchal election is a chance for all of us to create consensus and unite the will of our nation. This should be a top priority for us. We should rise above our individual, sectarian and narrow ideas and seek the highest good of the Armenian nation. The prestige and dignity of our church and nation are at stake. We should take this historic opportunity and build a prosperous future for our church and nation.”

According to sources in Lebanon, the election of H.H. Karekin II as the Catholicos of All Armenians is eminent. An Armenian diplomat in Beirut said, “At this juncture in our history we cannot afford to spend time on preparing or grooming a new catholicos. What we need right now is a Catholicos who is ready to assume the leadership of the Armenian Church, and there is a catholicos already.” Karekin II has been Catholicos of the Cilician See since 1983 and co-adjutor Catholicos from 1977 to 1983.

One week ago, ADL party newspaper Zartong, here in Beirut published a series of editorials opposing and ridiculing the prospect of H.H. Karekin II’s election as Catholicos of All Armenians. Meanwhile, the ARF in Beirut has been noticeably silent on this issue.

March 28 — Rome, Italy — Even though the Armenian Church is autonomous of Rome, Vatican officials are monitoring the upcoming elections with interest. Roman Catholic officials are pleased that H.H. Karekin’s election as Catholicos of All Armenians is a strong possibility.

Relations between the Vatican and Armenia were solidified this week with the opening of the Armenian Embassy to the Vatican. The embassy is an apartment on the North Western side of Rome. There was a brief “house blessing” ceremony there last Saturday, and flag raising. Relations between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Orthodox (Apostolic) Church were strained in the aftermath of the Armenian earthquake (1988), when it was perceived that Catholic proselytizing was taking place in Armenia. H.H. Karekin’s election would be welcomed by the Catholic Church as it would mean less problems for Catholics in Armenia. Karekin is well known and respected in Roman (i.e. ecumenical) circles for his education, intelligence, charisma and political savvy.

A year ago, a delegation from Rome visited Armenia and presented relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator to the late Catholicos Vazken I. An invitation from Pope John Paul II for the Catholicos to visit Rome was to be presented at this time, but due to H.H. Vazken’s ill health, this invite was never given.

Pope John Paul II has strong sympathy for the Christian East and for unity among Catholics and Orthodox. His recent encyclical for the millennium devoted a fair amount of space to this desire. There is no question that in the twilight of his pontificate, he would like to meet with the Armenian Catholicos. Memories of H.H. Vazken’s visit to Pope Paul VI over twenty years ago are still strong in Rome.

Lay participation in the electoral process is unique to the Armenian Church. Observers and students of the church history here, are extremely interested in the laity’s important role in the election. For Catholics (who’s college of cardinals is vested with the duty of selecting the Pope) this procedure is unheard of. Even the Eastern Orthodox Churches find the practice unusual.

In a open letter to the Armenian people, Eastern Diocesan Primate, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian explains the office of Catholicos as, “… the only officer in the world elected by the representatives of the entire nation, the Catholicos enjoys a unique relationship with the Armenian people. He is truly called the “Catholicos of All Armenian,” for he represents the whole range of our people — encompassing the Diaspora as well as the homeland — in a way that no other bishop, no king, no elected politician, has ever done. He is a spiritual father, through whom all the component parts of the Church are united. But the Catholicos does not just represent the people of the Church: he symbolizes the very Church itself, embodying its continuity through the ages, its moral authority, and the dignity of its mission as established by Jesus Christ. All the moral, intellectual and spiritual resources of the new pontiff will be called upon, as he assumes the weighty mantle of this institution.” (TAR Int’l 3.18.95)

March 30 — Beirut, Lebanon — His Holiness Karekin II left Beirut for Armenia, yesterday. At Beirut International Airport he was received in the VIP Hall by Lebanese government officials and Armenian members of the Lebanese Parliament. The two delegates representing the Catholicosate of Cilicia for the April 3 patriarchal election—Mr. Khachig Babikian, Lebanese MP and Archbishop Suren Kataroyan, Primate of Aleppo— were accompanying Karekin II.

At Beirut Airport Karekin II expressed his thoughts to the members of the media: “It is my prayer that God may bless all the lay and clergy delegates who are called to a supreme duty of electing the new Catholicos of All Armenians. We all realize that this election has a unique significance. It is a special event in view of the fact that such an election is taking place in the independent Republic of Armenia. Today our fatherland, our national government, our entire people—both in Armenia and the Diaspora—find themselves before a very significant event in the life of our nation. It is imperative that we feel, think, speak and work as one church, one nation and one national government.

“During the last decade, the world has seen enormous changes. Naturally, Armenians are also affected by these changes.  We cannot ignore these positive changes.  As such, there are so many vital needs facing the Catholicosate of All Armenians.  First, each and every Armenian should pray that God may give us strength. Second, every Armenian should think harmoniously, with brotherly love and with the common good of all in mind, so that through this election, the unity of our church may be solidified, especially in terms of her mission, her service to the nation.  This entails all spheres of our national life—spiritual, Christian, religious, and social.  Our church is not just a proof of our national preservation—like the shell of a tree that protects it—but it is an assurance of national preservation through her spiritual service.  As such it is not just a protective shell but it is part of the very core of the tree.

“We need a spiritual renewal both in Armenia and the Diaspora. Today, we are standing at a historic cross road.  I believe that as we have succeeded in history, we will be successful again this time, as we prepare to face the challenges that are before us.

“It is with such thoughts that I look at this important date [April 3] and it is my prayer that the outcome would be a new source of goodness and prosperity for our church, our fatherland, our entire nation and our national government.”

Arrival in Armenia — His Holiness Karekin II arrived in Yerevan in the early hours of Thursday, March 30.  At the Airport he was greeted by His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Locum Tenens of Etchmiadzin and Patriarch of Jerusalem, as well as senior archbishops of Etchmiadzin, including Primates of North America, Archbishops Vatché Hovsepian and Khajag Barsamian.  After a brief reception in the VIP Hall at Yerevan’s Zvartnotz Airport, Karekin II and his entourage were escorted to Holy Etchmiadzin.

Within few hours after Karekin II’s arrival, the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Beatitude Karekin Kazanjian arrived to Armenia and was escorted to Etchmiadzin as well. Already many of the Primates of the Armenian Church are in Armenia, including the Primates of Australia and New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, Damascus, New York and California.

31 March 1995 — Yerevan, Armenia — As delegates arrive, mini-caucusing is taking place among them here, in hotel lobbies and street corners. While these meetings are unofficial, they set the tone for what will unfold next week when the National Ecclesiastical Assembly convenes.

Since President Levon Der Bedrossian’s endorsement of H.H. Karekin II for the position of Supreme Patriarch, a climate of uncertainty has prevailed even among the delegates. Some view the endorsement as a “done-deal” with the delegates rubber stamping the decision. Many still feel confident in the democratic process of the Armenian Church. They are lobbying for their candidate and ready to elect the next Catholicos.

Some of the candidates have publicly withdrawn from the race. Though election officials are tight lipped about Monday’s ballot, it is generally agreed that a candidate can only withdraw his name before the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.

April 2 — Etchmiadzin —  Over 35 Archbishops and Bishops of the Armenian Church will meet in Etchmiadzin for a consultative meeting. In preparation for the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, the Bishops will discuss procedural issues as well as problematic areas that need to be ironed out before the Assembly. As the date of the Assembly comes near, the debate among the bishops over who will be the next catholicos is intensifying. Several bishops have been campaigning vigorously to find support among the delegates.

Khor Virab — On Saturday, pilgrims from various regions of Armenia came to the monastery of Khor Virab for the celebration of the feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator.  Bishop Barkev Martirosian of Artsakh celebrated the Divine Liturgy.

The election of the new catholicos was being widely discussed among the faithful outside in the courtyard of the monastery, from where the snowy peak of Mt. Ararat was clearly visible. Two young men, in their mid-thirties, have walked from Yerevan (about 4-5 hours) to Khor Virab with an oukhd (oath). They came to Khor Virab—the place were St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for fourteen years in the third century—to pray and ask for God’s blessings for the upcoming election in Etchmiadzin.  One of the pilgrims, Vahan Antreasian, 34, said “We came here as pilgrims so that God may bless our nation with a worthy catholicos, who can lead our church in Armenia and around the world.”

When people on the streets of Yerevan are asked about who will be the next catholicos, they mention two candidates, Catholicos Karekin II and Archbishop Karekin Nersissian of Yerevan.

—U.S. Ambassador Gilmore on  the Patriarchal Election — Yerevan — On Sunday, April 2, close to 100 delegates and representatives from the United States who are in Armenia for the National Ecclesiastical Assembly visited the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.  Ambassador Harry Gilmore welcomed the group, which was led by Archbishops Vatché Hovsepian and Khajag Barsamian.

Ambassador Gilmore introduced the staff of the embassy and gave a brief introduction to American and Armenian relations.  At the beginning of his remarks, Amb. Gilmore reflected on the upcoming patriarchal elections. He said, “The Armenian Church, for me, has been in many ways, the most fascinating institution, and certainly is my favorite Armenian institution, both because of its long history and what it symbolizes in terms of the long and successful pilgrimage of the Armenian people and the ability of this church to keep the culture of the people alive. This is evident to me as an outsider reading the history.

“For me to see an election of a new catholicos in free Armenia is a very special occasion. Obviously, as a country that has separation of church and state, I will be totally a witness, as all of us in the Embassy. We will not have any thoughts to offer about individual candidates, we will be watching intently, I will be watching very sympathetically.

“It is impressive to me to read the oath that you all are going to take. I believe it will be pretty much the same oath that dates back to 1911. I look forward to the results of the election.”

April 3 — Etchmiadzin —The National Ecclesiastical Assembly was called to order by Archbishop Vatché Hovsepian, on Monday with close to 400 delegates in attendance. Hovsepian, designated as the person in charge of organizing the elections, remarked about the historic significance of this convocation and thanked the many volunteers who assisted in organizing the convocation.

A solemn Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the main Cathedral of Etchmiadzin with all delegates participating and receiving Holy Communion. Requiem service was held for Catholicos Vazken I followed by a procession to the courtyard of Etchmiadzin where the remains of the late catholicos are buried. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian celebrated the Liturgy. H.H. Karekin II officiated.

President Der Bedrossian addressed the assembly. In his remarks, he discreetly attempted to squelch the misunderstanding about his personal choice of Karekin II for the position. He emphasized that ultimately, it is in the power of the delegates to elect the next catholicos and thereby forge ahead the work of the church and nation.

His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia addressed the convocation attendees, openly eschewing any consideration of politics. He asked that each delegate cast their vote according to their conscience and as moved by God.

The delegates took the following oath of office:

“I, the undersigned, a lay delegate to the pontifical election, promise and swear by the Almighty God, before His Gospel, that in the forthcoming election of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, I shall seek, for the highest level of administration of the Holy Church of Armenia and the supervision of its clergy—with a clear conscience and personal responsibility, without any favoritism or personal expectation, repelling from myself all grudges of hostility or any ties of relationship or friendship—to elect from among the clergymen of my ancestral church such a person whom I consider to be the most capable and worthy in intellect and conscience, whom I expect to emerge, in fulfilling the obligations which are laid on him by this sublime office, as a devout officer of God, and as a spiritual overseer of the welfare and the good of the Church of Christ, as well as of the patriarchal authority over the rational flock of Christ entrusted to him. But if of the church, wherein lies my allegiance, I shall expose myself to the reproach of my fellow brothers and become accountable before God in life hereafter and before His Great Judgment. Following my oath, I will kiss the Word [Gospel}  and the Cross of our Savior for a fair election. Amen.”

The meeting convened in the Patriarchal Palace, adjacent to the main cathedral of Etchmiadzin. His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Locum Tenes and Patriarch of Jerusalem, presided.

Yerevan, Armenia —Two candidates are favored equally by the citizens of Yerevan: Karekin II of Cilicia and Archbishop Karekin Nersissian of Yerevan. In a person-on-the-street interview with inhabitants of Armenia’s capital city, Window News asked individuals about their choice for catholicos. Archbishop Karekin Nersissian, the primate of Yerevan and the Araratian diocese was the favorite of the people until President Levon Der Bedrossian’s endorsement of Karekin II. Differentiating between the two Karekin’s, people on the street refer to Nersissian as “Yerevantzi” and the catholicos by his name.

April 4 — KAREKIN II ELECTED CATHOLICOS OF ALL ARMENIANS— Etchmiadzin, Armenia — The National Ecumenical Assembly has just elected His Holiness Karekin II as Catholicos of All Armenians. This news comes hours after the ballot had been narrowed to three candidates: Karekin II, Abp. Karekin of Yerevan (Nersissian) and Abp. Barkev of Artzakh (Mardirossian).   [ed.note: His Holiness is the first “Karekin” to assume the catholicosal throne of Holy Etchmiadzin and will henceforth be known as Karekin I.]

On April 4, the first round of voting was held in the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin where 399 delegates representing the entire Armenian nation around the world gathered to elect the new catholicos.

The first ballot had eight names and the voting results were as follows:

Cthcs. Karekin Sarkissian     111

Abp. Karekin Nersissian       123

Bp.  Barkev Mardirossian      61

Abp. Diran Guereghian   42

Abp. Grigoris Puniatian       38

Abp. Zaven Chinchinian        9

Bishop Aris Shirvanian              3

Bp. Gueregh Kapikian         2

(10 invalid votes)

At the conclusion and announcement of results of the first round, a three name ballot was prepared for the second round of voting. The candidates were Catholicos Karekin, Abp. Karekin Nersissian, Bp. Barkev Martirossian.

After one hour of recess, the Assembly reconvened in the Cathedral where the second round of voting was held. The results

were as follows:

Cthcs. Karekin Sarkissian     184

Abp. Karekin Nersissian       146

Bp.  Barkev Mardirossian      61

(5 invalid votes)

Originally, the Assembly had decided that the candidate who receives fifty percent and one votes (50%+1) would be the new catholicos. At the end of the second round of votes, Catholicos Karekin and Archbishop Karekin Nersissian were the front runners and according to the rules accepted by the Assembly, a third round of votes would have been required.  However, Archbishop Karekin Nersissian withdrew his candidacy for a third round and gave his full support to Catholicos Karekin. Thus, the need for a third round of voting was unnecessary. The presidency of the Assembly, announced that Catholicos Karekin is the 131 CATHOLICOS OF ALL ARMENIANS.

The bells of Etchmiadzin tolled the news of the election of Catholicos All Armenians to the multitude of the people who were anxiously waiting outside the gates of the Monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin.

A delegate from Michigan, Dr. Dennis Papazian reflecting on final election process said, “All the Archbishops and Bishops congratulated the new Catholicos and one another and the Cathedral was filled with jubilation and festive mood.  There seem to be a great deal of good will and I think that this is very important in view of the fact that our church needs to move ahead, together with our country and people. Everyone seemed to understand that and showed great statesmanship and dignity. It was a proud moment to see our chosen leaders come together and say this is our Catholicos we will work with him. He is Chosen of God!”

His Holiness Karekin I’s Accepted Speech — After being elected the 131 Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin I made a brief acceptance statement in the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin to the 399 delegates:

“The first thing that I would like to do is kiss the Holy Altar of Descent as a sign of my devotion and oath.

[Quotation from the Book of Psalms]

With the words of the Psalmist, I open my mouth, to accept, willingly and by the will of the entire nation, the calling to this most high office. As St. Gregory of Narek said, ‘Give  strength to your servant O Lord, knowing myself, I am weak to bear the great and unforgivable burden.’ But I beseech Thee, O Lord, give strength to your servant”.

Dear reverend brothers and lay colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

First, I express my thanks and gratitude to all of you for dully performing your national responsibility. After long consultations and at times emotional difficulties, you came to this decision and elected me as successor to the throne of the Illuminator’s Mother See.

Your Beatitude, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian…

During the last six months you carried out the difficult task of assuring the smooth transition of the 130th and 131st Catholicoi, with courage, persistence and great patience. Today I express my warm feelings and gratitude to you and wish, from the depth of my heart that the Apostolic See of Jerusalem may prosper during your tenure for many years. I hope that your Patriarchate will become one of the most important Sees for spiritual strength and nourishment.

Brethren of the Supreme Religious Council, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Karekin Kazanjian of Constantinople and participation of the clergy and lay members, I express to you my deep gratitude.

I express my thanks and gratitude to the Primate and Patriarchal Vicar of the Ararat Diocese in Yerevan and my dear junior brother Archbishop Karekin Nersissian. [Applause]. I embrace you as one of my closest assistants in the coming years.

On this occasion, I would like to thank all those who helped organize this national Assembly which will continue tomorrow.

I express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government of newly Independent Republic of Armenia, to his excellency the President and all the government and civil servants and to all the children of our Nation, both in Armenia and the Diaspora.

Finally, as I enter this blessed house, I address my words of love to  the institution which I served for eighteen years, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. It is my duty and desire [to see] the realization of cooperation and unity, and may the will for one church, flag and cross lead us forward henceforth.

And now, dear clergy and lay delegates of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, I would like to conclude my remarks with my first blessing as Catholicos of All Armenians.

(English translation provided by Window Quarterly)

Final Session —On Wednesday, April 4, the National Ecclesiastical Assembly convened in the patriarchal palace in Etchmiadzin for the final session of the three-day national meeting.

His Holiness Karekin I, Catholicos-elect of All Armenians, presided over the meeting.  He opened the meeting with a prayer and a short meditation on a passage from the Gospel of Matthew. After reading the biblical passage, His Holiness invited the delegates and the members of the Assembly for a moment of prayer and meditation in silence.

According to Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan of Istanbul, “This prayerful opening was very significant and different from previous church assemblies.  His Holiness, by his own example, set the stage for more spiritual awareness in the Armenian Church.  All the delegates were inspired and touched by this beautiful beginning of the final session of the Assembly.”

His Holiness addressed the Assembly and gave a presentation on some of the major themes that will be on his list of priorities as the 131st Catholicos of All Armenians.

Among the priorities, Karekin I discussed briefly

a) The importance of the upcoming 1700th Anniversary of Armenian’s declaration of Christianity as state religion;

b) The preparation of new cadre of clergy and servants of the church;

c) The national character of the Armenian Church;

d) The importance of safeguarding the independence of Armenia. In this connection he called upon the delegates and Armenian communities around the world to support the “Hayastan Fund”.

At the end of his address, His Holiness asked the delegates for suggestions or proposals that they have. About two dozen delegates expressed their views and ideas and brought some of the concerns of their communities to His Holiness’s attention.

After the proposals, His Holiness made some concluding remarks. The National Ecclesiastical Assembly was formally closed with His Holiness’s blessing.

April 6 — YEREVAN— On Wednesday, April 5, after the conclusion of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, the newly elected Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin I made his first courtesy visit to the President of the Republic of Armenia, Levon Ter Petrossian.

His Holiness was accompanied by the respective Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople, members of the Supreme Religious Council and several archbishops of Etchmiadzin.

On his way to Yerevan, His Holiness’s entourage stopped at the outskirts of the city where thousands of Armenians were waiting on the streets to greet the new Catholicos. His Holiness came out of his car and was greeted by dancing children, who brought bread and salt for blessing. After the blessing, a sheep was slaughtered by the residents of the area, as it is customary in Armenia for special occasions.

His Holiness met with the President of the Republic and his staff briefly.  At about 5:00 PM a large crowd of several thousand Armenians were waiting in the Opera Square in Yerevan to greet the new Catholicos.  Karekin I was received with music and loud cheers.  The gathering was concluded with the singing of the Lord’s Prayer by all who were present.

April 9 — Enthronement of Catholicos Karekin I ETCHMIADZIN—Palm Sunday, His Holiness Karekin I was enthroned as the 131st Catholicos of All Armenians in the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin.

At 11:00 AM, the Catholicos was lead from the patriarchal palace to the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin with a procession in which high ranking clergy and ecumenical guests took part.

President Levon Ter Petrosian witnessed the ceremony in the Cathedral, together with the vice-president of Armenia, Chairman of the Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and other high ranking government officials. President Kocharian of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh was also present.

The ceremonies started with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. His Holiness Karekin I was the celebrant. Before the “Kiss of Peace” the catholicos elect kneeled before the holy altar facing the people and took his public oath. Afterwards, twelve bishops and respective patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople placed their hands over Karekin I’s head and asked for the blessings of the Holy Spirit to descend over the Catholicos of All Armenians.

Immediately after the prayers, the newly enthroned pontiff gave his first sermon as Catholicos of All Armenians.

Many foreign and ecumenical guests were present at the enthronement ceremonies, among them Pope Shenuda of the Coptic Church, the Patriarch of the Indian Malabar Church, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Patriarch of Syrian Orthodox Church, Cardinal Cassidy of the Vatican, representing Pope John Paul II, and representatives of the Russian, Greek, Romanian, Georgian Orthodox Churches, the Church of England and many others. Also present were the foreign diplomatic corps in Armenia.

Reception in Honor of Catholicos Karekin I—Following the religious ceremonies for the enthronement of Karekin I, a reception was held at 4:00 PM in the large hall of the “Hamalir” in Yerevan. Over one thousand invited guests and delegates, together with President Ter Petrossian welcomed the 131st Catholicos of All Armenians.

The two-hour reception was concluded with the words of the Catholicos, where he said, “During the past few days we have spoken a lot, now we need to move from words to work. Let us start our work together”.

Karekin I’s Address to the Foreign Guests —At the reception following the enthronement ceremonies in Etchmiadzin, His Holiness Karekin I said a few words to the foreign and ecumenical guests in the large hall of the “Hamalir” in Yerevan.

“This evening is an unforgettable moment in our history of modern times. As I said in my sermon, this is a unique event in the sense that for centuries, we did not have an election and an enthronement of a Catholicos where free independent Armenia could express its own will. That happened and may God’s name be praised for having granted us this great opportunity. And your presence here, from so many sister Christian churches, your presence from so many countries [is a testimony to that fact]. The world is looking to Armenia, it has to look to Armenia because your salvation came from Mount Ararat. Had it not been for that big Mountain, Noah would not have, perhaps, survived and if not, you would not have existed today.

“I would like to thank you for your Christian spirit of solidarity. What is Christianity? It is togetherness, fellowship, brotherhood and you being with us give us a tangible proof of being true Christian. To be a Christian alone without another Christian is not to be a Christian. Christians have to manifest their community through that kind of togetherness.

“I wish all my brethren, the heads of your churches, those who are here and those who are represented here, I greet them and embrace them with Christian love.” I give you my assurance that we will, hand in hand together, bring about the unity of Christ’s church. That unity is imperative, it is part of our essence, that unity is intrinsic in our being Christian. This is the lesson of this evening. Thank you.”

Karekin I Granted Armenian Citizenship — During the reception following the enthronement of His Holiness as the 131st Catholicos, President Levon Ter Petrossian, at the conclusion of his remarks, granted Armenian citizenship to Karekin I by handing him an Armenian passport. The President also granted citizenship to His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was Locum Tenens of Etchmiadzin during the interim period between the death of Catholicos Vazken I and the election of Karekin I.

National Ecclesiastical Assembly

Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

April 3-5, 1995


His Holiness Catholicos Karekin Sarkissian

His Beatitude Patriarch Torkom Manoogian

His Beatitude Patriarch Karekin Kazanjian


Judge Dariel Barseghian


Vice Chairman

Archbishop Nersess Bozabalian



Father Haigazoun Najarian

(New York)

2nd Secretary

Bishop Anania Arabajian



Monday, April 3

• Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral (9:00 AM)

followed by delegates’ oath taking ceremony

• Registration of Delegates (10:30 Am)

• First Session of the Assembly (3:00 PM)

– Officers of the Supreme Religious Council were temporary officers of NEA

– Entrance of the Hierarchs

– Opening Prayer

– Roll call

– Entrance of the President of the Republic of Armenia

– Introduction by the Locum Tenens

– President Levon Ter Petrossian’s address to NEA

– Catholicos Karekin II’s address to the NEA

– Ratification of Rules and procedures of meetings

– Election of Officers

– Election of Credentials Committee

– Appointment of Parliamentary Committee

– Appointment of Appreciations Committee

– Appointment of Resolutions and Proposals Committee

– List of clergy candidates for election of Catholicos

Tuesday, April 4

• Second Session (9:00 AM)

– Entrance of Hierarchs

– Prayer

– Roll Call

– Reading of Minutes of First Session

– Report of the Locum Tenens for the seven months of activities

– Procession to the Cathedral

– Election of Catholicos of All Armenians

– Announcement of results

Wednesday, April 5

• Third and Final Session (9:00 AM)

– Entrance of Hierarchs

– Prayer and meditation by Catholicos-elect Karekin I

– Catholicos-elect’s address to the NEA

– Proposals and considerations

– Closing remarks & benediction by newly elected Catholicos of All Armenians.

Address of the

President of the Republic of Armenia

Levon Ter Petrossian

to the

National Ecclesiastical Assembly

Patriarch Manoogian’s Introduction

Patriarch Torkom Manoogian of Jerusalem, who was the Locum Tenens of Etchmiadzin, during the first session of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, expressed words of gratitude to the Republic of Armenia and introduced the President to the Assembly.  Archbishop Manoogian said:

Today, our nation has the unique opportunity to convene this Assembly in the name of the Armenian Church. It is for the first time that the National Ecclesiastical Assembly is being convened under the banner of independent Armenia. It is the first time that an invitation was sent to the President of the Republic to be present at this first session of the Assembly and to say a few words of welcome.  It is the first time that the President of a Republic has responding to such an invitation.  We [invited him] with the confidence and faith that—on the soil of our fatherland—our state knows and appreciates the spiritual values of its people. Consequently, [the state] is not only the guardian of our land, but also the guardian of our spiritual legacy.

We have also invited the representatives of the Republic of Artzakh.

I would like to thank our national government not only for its support and cooperation—during the funeral services of the late Catholicos Vazken I and on the occasion of the convening of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly—but also for zealously and appropriately contributing, on a state level, to the organizational efforts of these events.

Today, as we welcome President Ter Petrossian, we also welcome those who accompany him: Vice-President, Gagik Harutyunian; Prime Minister, Hrant Bagratian; President of the Parliament, Babgen Ararktzian; President of Religious Affairs Committee of the Parliament, Lazar Soujian; Director of pan-Armenian “Hayastan Fund”, Manushag Petrossian; President of the Republic of Artzakh, Robert Kocharian; Prime Minister, Leonard Petrossian; and President of the Parliament of the Republic of Artzakh, Garen Babourian.

It is my pleasure and honor, with special gratitude, to invite the President of the Republic of Armenia, Mr. Levon Ter Petrossian, to say his words of welcome.

Excerpts from the President’s address to the NEA on April 3, 1995 before the formal opening of the Assembly in Holy Etchmiadzin.

Tomorrow, the 131st Catholicos of All Armenians will sit on the throne of the Armenian Apostolic Church—the honor and responsibility of electing him has been entrusted to you. We have no doubt that you will rise above petty, secondary and sectarian interests; that you will rise above the traditional positions of fossilized relationships, and be guided, especially, with the voice of your conscience and with the awareness of the supreme issue placed before the Armenian Church—the restoration of the unity of the Armenian Church.

History is according [us] an extraordinary opportunity to organize the pan-national work of restoration of the unity of the Armenian Church. I am sure that the National Ecclesiastical Assembly will not let this opportunity slip.  Otherwise future generations will not forgive us.

Here, I would like to put diplomatic language aside and speak with you with simple human language.

Let us all admit that the current situation that exists in our Church—that is, her division—is a national disgrace. I do not accept any justification, any argumentation, from all those wåho have contributed to that division. They do not have any justification.  I do not accept the false passions that caused the division. I do not accept the thought that the Church in Etchmiadzin, which was seen as subservient to the Kremlin or the KGB, has served our people worse  than the Cilician See.  Simply, the Armenian nation, as in the past, in this era as well, had turned into a pawn of the Cold War. Today, we have the opportunity—without the demands of foreign forces—for the first time, to solve our problems ourselves. To solve the greatest problem that is placed before our Church.

I am reminded of the great deeds of [St.] Gregory of Datev and Tovma Metzaboretzi—who, during one of the darkest period of our history, had such broad minded wisdom and national thinking, that they were able to achieve great deeds.  They resolved a most important national problem by dealing with foreign rulers, with the help and donations of a patriotic Prince Rostom Orbelian. In fact, that fundamental deal constituted the basis of what is Armenia today.

Today, the same problem is placed before our nation—before our generation. Our generation, together with you, regained our independent statehood. Our generation liberated Mountainous Karabakh, and it is the duty of our generation to regain the unity of the Armenian Church.

I believe in your broad-mindedness and judgment and wish heartfelt success to your work.

* Translation by Window Quarterly


On March 8, in an interview with Hayastani Hanrapetutyun, President Levon Der Petrossian, commented on the upcoming election of Catholicos. Following is the text of that interview which later became known as the  “President’s endorsement.”

Q:  Mr.  President, the elections for the Catholicos of All Armenians are scheduled for April 3.  Does the government have a position on this?

A: In accordance with the law “On Freedom of Conscience” the Church is separated from the state, therefore the latter has no right to interfere in church affairs, including the election of the Catholicos.

Q: However, could you specify what you think, not as the President but as a citizen, about the electoral process and possible candidates for this post?

A: I believe it is my duty, since historically  the elections of the Armenian Catholicos have grown to a national issue of paramount importance.  Parallel to its spiritual activities the Armenian Apostolic Church was obliged to act as a secular authority in the absence of statehood.  As a natural result, a certain number of secular delegates were granted the right to participate in the elections, which sets the Armenian Church apart from others.

Q: Does the restoration of Armenian statehood imply that the national activities of the Armenian Apostolic Church will end?

A:  Not at all, though this answer may sound contradictory in light of what I said previously.  It is true that along with the restoration of Armenian statehood, the church was relieved of its secular obligations.  However, as long as a considerable number of Armenians live abroad, the church will preserve its role of uniting the Armenian people. The activities of the church in the nation’s spiritual and moral education should not be underestimated.

Q: What do you think about the upcoming elections?  Who is the most likely candidate for the post of the Armenian Catholicos.  Who would you prefer to see in that post?

A:  During its 1700-year history, the Armenian church has almost always had very capable individuals in that post.  If any contradictions have emerged during the elections, they were due to external interference rather than internal disagreements.

Nowadays, the See of Echmiadsin has many esteemed candidates for Catholicos, such as Jerusalem Patriarch Torkom Manoogian, Constantinople Patriarch Garegin Archbishop Gazanjian, the Ararat diocese leader Archbishop Garegin Nersisian and others.  However, because of his Armenian theological and historical knowledge, diplomatic abilities and administration skills, the Catholicos of Cilicia, Karekin II is the undeniable authority for believers in Echmiatsin, in Armenia and in the Diaspora.

I believe that these elections are crucial for the consolidation of the Armenian Apostolic Church, or in a wider sense, for the nation-wide undertaking of regulating the Armenia-diaspora relations.  My confidence is based on the joint efforts of the late Catholicos of All-Armenians, Vazken and Catholicos Karekin toward the restoration of the Church’s integrity and the organization of the Pan-Armenia “Hayastan” Fund.

Q:  How do you feel about the unification of the Armenian Church?

A: I do not believe that it will take place soon.  The Cilician See, as an

historical institution, will maintain its existence for a long time, while

unreservedly recognizing Echmiadsin’s primacy and gradually confining itself to its former religious boundaries of Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.  Catholicos Karekin II is the most capable person to begin this process.  I am convinced that the Armenian clergymen will not lose this historical opportunity.       (HAYASTANI HANRAPETUTYUN-3/8/95)

S e r m o n


His Holiness Karekin I

on the occasion of his enthronement as the

131st Catholicos of All Armenians

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1)

Glory and thanks to

You, O Lord, Heav

enly Father, for

blessing my soul—

from the very beginning of my physical and spiritual birth—with Your all-luminous presence, like the light of the sun, and for blessing my entire life with Your almighty power. Today, You have called me, Your humble servant, to spiritual service through the election by the children of Your Armenian people to this highest and most holy office.  The dignity of this office—as the radiance of Your grace—is understood and expressed through the greatest sense of duty. Like any human being, this duty is difficult for me, and it is actualized only through human limitations and mediation. As I have not been able to accomplish anything without the presence of Your power—throughout the last four decades of my priesthood—today also, I realize that I could not do anything, as Your truth- communicating words affirm, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

I have carried Your yoke continuously for forty-three years—since my ordination as a celibate priest. I carried your cross and walked behind you. Your yoke was heavy in my life, my shoulders were weak, but the strength of your cross—which has two names: love and sacrifice—eased my burden by making it “sweet” and “light” (Matthew 11:30). If I were left alone, I would have said with the words of Your Only Begotten Son, “remove this cup from me.” But immediately, I would have undoubtedly added “yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). Having Your will as my guide, I progressed from the rank of priesthood to that of episcopacy and You brought me to the highest and most eminent rank of Catholicos. I carried that yoke for eighteen years as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and now with a higher level of responsibility, I will carry the yoke of the Illuminator’s most holy throne—the Mother See of Etchmiadzin—as Catholicos of All Armenians.

At this final phase of the journey of my spiritual service, before this most holy altar, I beseech you O Lord, my God, “Give thy strength to Thy servant, and save the son of Thine handmaid, and show me the sign of your favour” (Psalm 86:16-17).  At this sacred moment of Enthronement—once again feeling the flow of Your strength in my soul—I repeat the words of the Psalmist King “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall want nothing” (Psalm 23:1).

At this decisive moment of my entry into a broader field of ministry, I feel a heartfelt urge to raise my voice to Almighty God and beseech Him to grant repose to the noble soul of my predecessor, the memorable Catholicos Vazken I, in the light of His glory and in blissful, eternal peace. May the Lord accept Vazken I’s fruitful and God-pleasing ministry in His Armenian vineyard.

I am certain that you all realize the unique and exceptional significance of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly’s catholicossal election. For the first time in the twentieth century, the election was held—as now this solemn Ceremony of Enthronement is taking place—at a time when our fatherland is an Independent republic. Having been liberated from seventy years of totalitarian rule, today our nation is living in a free country, where new democratic rules have been established.  At this decisive and significant period of our modern history, our Armenian Apostolic Holy Church—whose office of first servant has been entrusted to me—is called to an decisive and salvific role in the life of our nation. Our church—led by the God-given and Christ-instructed mission and historical legacy—is called to pour abundant, clean and new water from the fountain of the Gospel and the holy tradition of our fathers into the life of our people.  The truths that are lived through Christ and taught by the Gospel, the moral principles of life and spiritual values ought to become life-giving streams in the spiritual fields of our fatherland and in the life of our entire people—and having flourished, they will present spiritual fruits to our people.  Without the Gospel, our nation is weak. Without the revitalization of the holy legacy of our fathers, the image and character of our people is gloomy.

This is the lesson of history. This is what our people needs and mandates. We believe that this is also the expectation of our government.  The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin—the spiritual house built by God and established by Christ—with God’s help and your dedication shall become a vital and bountiful source of Christian spiritual nourishment.

We have a wonderful opportunity presented to us—the 1700th anniversary of the declaration of Christianity as the state religion in Armenia and the formal establishment of our church. As I have already said elsewhere, this occasion shall become a miracle of new Pentecost in the life of our nation in Armenia and the Diaspora. It shall become a stream of renewal through which the life of the Armenian nation shall flourish further in the service of God and all of humanity.

Our church is also the cement of our national unity, as well as the power which nourishes and fortifies our strength. If we are alert and perceptive, we cannot avoid reading the “signs of the time” which place us all, without exception, under the command of unity, solidarity, brotherhood and harmonious cooperation.  Our church becomes internally more invigorated and benevolent in her activities when she acts as one church, under the auspices and guidance of the Catholicosate of All Armenians, which is recognized by the entire Armenian nation as the Mother See.  The current situation of the world and the contemporary life of the Armenian nation, advise us of one thing: the strengthening of the unity of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church.  A new page has been opened before humanity. A new page has been opened in the life of the Armenian nation. A new page must be opened in the life of the Armenian Church. The page of rivalry and opposition should be considered closed. The page of unity has been opened and it should be our common responsibility to fill that page with “brave works”, as Khorenatzi explains—grand and noble works through which the unity and strength of the Armenian Church will shine without shadow, bright as the light of the sun.

The twentieth century began with a dark date, the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which spread the shadow of death over our land and people.  This year—with exemplary faithfulness, on a national scale and under the flag of unity—we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians. The commemoration will be on state, church and popular levels. Certainly, this commemoration will prove to be a source of new regeneration for the entire Armenian nation.

Praise—praise a thousand times—that this same century in our history is closing with the most splendid and luminous event: the establishment of  the self-ruling and supreme state of free independent Armenia. This was the dream of centuries that became a reality.  Imagined on the horizon of centuries, it is the first time that the president of an independent state, together with his state officials, is present at the Service of Enthronement of the Catholicos.  I believe, that day by day, our established and developing State will enter the third millennium, with strengthened dynamism—to continue its creative journey toward the future.

Inevitably, this fundamental and enormous reality leads us to a new way of thinking. Henceforth, we are called to think as a nation state, and as such, we ought to live and work accordingly.  We are no longer—and we cannot be anymore—that which we were yesterday. We were a nation under foreign repression, even in our own fatherland. We were communities spread throughout the world under the conditions of Diaspora life. Today, we are an independent country and a people with a free and democratic state.  It is time for us to change and reform and realize the value of our fatherland and statehood. We are no longer a Diaspora. Yes, we have a Diaspora, and we will have in the future. But the Diaspora has an immense importance to our fatherland and the entire Armenian nation. Millions of Armenians live outside the fatherland in a diasporized reality. They are the loyal and creative citizens of their respective countries and will remain so. They have their own unique conditions and needs—under which they undertake brave and vital efforts to preserve their identity. But they never forget that their ancestral home is Armenia and thus bring their contribution to the holy work of nation building. Geographic distances, political differences, cultural idiosyncrasies and lifestyles can not harm the unity of fate of the heart, mind and soul—if continuous communication and wisdom always operate with a spirit of mutual understanding.

I am a so-called son of the Diaspora. I was not born in the fatherland, but the fatherland was born in me.  It was born from the day when the Armenian language echoed in my ears through my mother’s lullaby; when the Armenian alphabet was opened before my eyes on the chalkboard of my school; when Armenian books became the indispensable, intellectual ink of my pen…. Today I have come to the abode of my ancestors, where I feel as if I have never been separated….

My brothers and sisters, it is necessary to extend a golden bridge between the fatherland and the Diaspora. We must remain one in the residence of our spiritual geography,  kindled with the feeling that we are members of one nation.  It is with this realization that we must all participate in the process of strengthening our national government and in the development of resources for our people.

It is with this understanding that the Armenian Church will play its national role, because she is inextricably commingled with the history and fate of the Armenian nation.

It is with this same understanding that our church will continue to support our brothers and sisters in Artzakh in their heroic struggle and in defense of their just rights. The problem of Artzakh has no religious dimension. Like our memorable predecessor, we have been—and remain—the advocate of the idea of peaceful and honest negotiations toward the resolution of the Artzakh conflict, based on the principles of human rights and self-determination.

At the conclusion of our words, we would like to express our deep gratitude and appreciation to the heads and representatives of the sister churches and ecumenical organizations, who enriched our Enthronement ceremony with their presence, prayers and with their spoken and written statements of good will.

We would like to express our appreciation to all the representatives of states and diplomats, who with their presence honored the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and our national government.

We warmly greet the Hierarchical Sees of our Holy Church:

– The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia—where we served as a member of the Brotherhood from the time of our ordination until today—and where we brought our dedicated participation in her spiritual and national service;

– The Patriarchal See of Jerusalem, its Patriarch, Brotherhood and its historical mission;

– The Patriarchal See of Constantinople, its clergy and faithful people.

Our fatherly love and greetings to the Brotherhood of the Mother See, all the bishops, diocesan bishops, vardapets, priests, deacons, diocesan and national ordinaries and the entire faithful people in Armenia and throughout the world.

We express our word of love, appreciation and gratitude to the President of our Republic, His excellency Levon Ter Petrossian, his eminent officials,  the ministers, the members of the parliament, the presidential staff, the brave armed forces and the entire state administration.  We highly appreciate their love and respect toward the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church.

May the invisible Eye and the almighty Arm of God protect and preserve our entire faithful people in Mother Armenia and the Diaspora.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

Pray that the Lord may shepherd me, so that I am able to shepherd you in green pastures and near peaceful waters, for the glory of God, for the peace and prosperity of the world, for the illumination of the Holy Church, and for the edification and renewal of the Armenian nation. Amen.

Karekin I

Catholicos of All Armenians

9 April 1995

Palm Sunday

Holy Etchmiadzin

*Translated by Hratch Tchilingirian

Oath of

Catholicos Karekin I

Karekin, servant of Christ and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia — at this time, having become a member of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin, by the will of God and through the election of the entire Armenian nation — has been called to the Araratian throne of the Catholicosate of All Armenians. Trusting in the helping grace of the Almighty, I promise and vow before this holy altar and holy symbols accepted by God.

I accept this office of Chief-bishop of the Armenian Church, and with complete devotion, I dedicated myself, without failing, to carry out God’s established laws and the duties of the Catholicos of All Armenians. To lead the Armenian nation according to the orthodox teachings of the Christian religion, according to the doctrines of our Church and according to the canons and rules of worship of the fathers. To be lead at all times — without compromise and deviation — in the glowing footsteps of the worthy successors of the holy apostles, Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew, and our patron St. Gregory the second Illuminator; and to carefully protect the rights of the Mother See of the Armenian.

His Holiness Karekin I Sarkissian

Catholicos of All Armenians

Born in 1932 in Kessab, Syria.

Education: – Antelias Seminary, 1946-1952;

– Oxford University, UK, 1957-1959; B. Litt.

Calling:    – Ordained deacon in 1949

– Priest 1955

– Supervisor and member of faculty of Antelias Seminary, 1956

– Archimandrite 1963

– Bishop 1964

– Archbishop 1973

– Primate, Irano-Indian Diocese in Julfa, Iran 1971

– Primate of Eastern Prelacy, New York, USA

– Catholicos Co-adjutor of Cilicia1977-1983

– Catholicos of Cilicia 1983- April 1995

– Catholicos of All Armenians, April 1995

Postions:   – Lecturer of theology, literature, history and culture at Palanjian Academy in Beirut; Beirut College of Women; American University, Beirut.

– Lectures delivered in various universities in the US, Canada and Europe.

Publications:     – The Witness of the Armenian Church (Antelias 1955 and Julfa 1973)

– The Right Arm of St. Illuminator and its Return (Antelias 1957)

– A Brief Introduction to Armenian Christian Literature (London 1960,   reprinted in New York 19765, French in Paris 1964)

– The Council of Chalcedon and the Armenian Church (London 1965, New    York 1975)

– The Witness of the Oriental Orthodox Churches (Antelias 1968,   reprinted in 1969)

– Iran and the Armenian (Iran 1971 also in Persian)

– Armenian Christian Tradition in Iran (Iran 1973, also in French)

– Heroic Posterity (New York 1975)

– Pastoral Theology (Antelias 1979)

– Land, Man and Letter (Antelias 1983)

– Know Thyself (Antelias 1983)

– Think and Enter (Antelias 1984)

– The Past is not Passed (Antelias 1986)

– Tribute to Catholicos Zareh I (Antelias 1988)



His Holiness is well know and respected within Ecumenical circles. He has been one of the initiators of the ecumenical movement in the Middle East. He has attended interchurch conferences since 1955 and through his efforts the Holy See of Cilicia became a member of the World Council of Churches in 1962. In 1963-65, he attended the Second Vatican Council in and the Conference of Lambeth in 1968.


In the World Council of Churches, he has attended WCC General Assemblies in New Delhi, India in 1961; in Uppsala, Sweden in 1968; in Nairobi, Kenya in 1975; and in Vancouver, Canada in 1983. He was elected member of the Central Executive Committees of WCC.


Middle East Council of Churches: One of the three Presidents of Middle East Council of Churches.

Other: Founder of the Armenian Church University Student Association (ACUSA) in 1963.

The National Ecclesiastical Assembly

Where, what, who, how many?

Country     Diocese/See             Center            D1    C2    L3    F4    Population5

*Bishops and

Primates      Catholicosate of All Armenians            46    46                            *Supreme


Council       Catholicosate of All Armenians            4     4

Albania     Ponti.  Legate (Paris)  Tirana      1           1           400         Argentina      Diocese of Argentina    Buenos Aires      4           4           85,000            Armenia     Catholicosate All Arm.  Etchmiadzin 1     1                                   Diocese of Ararat Yerevan     104   13    86    5     2,601,113

Diocese of Shirak Gumri 30    6     23    1     742,704

Diocese of Koukark      Tilijan     10    2     6     2     250,000

Diocese of Siunik Datev 10    2     7     1     238,000           Australia   Diocese of Australia

& New Zealand      Sydney      2           2           40,000            Austria      Pontifical Legate Vienna      1           1           6,000       Belgium      Pontifical Legate (Paris)     Bruxelles   1           1           3,100       Brazil      Diocese of Brazil San Paulo   1           1           15,000            Bulgaria      Diocese of Bulgaria     Sofia 1     1                 19,700            Canada      Diocese of Canada Montreal    4     1     3           85,000            Chile Diocese of Argentina      Santiago    1           1           750         Egypt Diocese of Egypt      Cairo 1           1           10,000            Ethiopia    Diocese of Egypt  Addis Ababa 1           1           200         France      Diocese of Paris  Paris 8     1     7            193,000

Rhone-Alpes Region      Lyon  3           3           60,000                  Marseille Region      Marseille   4           4           101,600           Georgia     Diocese of Georgia     Tiblisi     16    2     13    1     400,000           Germany     Diocese of Germany     Koln  1     1                 30,000

Great Britain     Diocese of England      London      1           1           10,000

Greece      Diocese of Greece Athens      1           1           12,000                  Patr. of  Constantinople      Is. of Crete      1           1           120

India Pontifical  Legate (Sydney)   Calcutta    1           1           467         Iraq      Diocese of Iraq   Baghdad     1           1           19,500            Israel      St. James Brotherhood Jerusalem   1     1

Patr. of Jersualem      Jerusalem   1           1           2,800       Italy      Pontifical   Legate (Paris)   Milano      1     1                 2,500       Jordan      Patriarchate of Jerusalem     Amman 1           1           7,000       Karabakh      Diocese of Artzakh      Shoushi     9     3     5     1     216,000           Lebanon      Catholicosate of Cilicia      Antelias    2     1     1                 Netherlands      Pontifical Legate (Paris)     Amsterdam   1           1           6,000       Romania      Diocese of Romania      Bucharest   1     1                 4,750       Russia      Diocese of Russia

& New Nakhichevan  Moscow      100   18    76    6     2,500,000         Sweden      Pontifical  Legate (Vienna)   Uppsala     1           1           3,000       Switzerland Diocese of Switzerland  Geneva      1           1           3,000       Turkey      Patriarchate of Constantinople      Istanbul    6     1     5           114,500           Uruguay     Diocese of Uruguay      Montevideo  1           1           10,000            USA   Eastern Diocese   New York    24    6     16    2     600,000

Western Diocese   Los Angeles 20    4     15    1     500,000

32 Countries            TOTAL 4306  112   298   20    8,893,204

1 Total Number of Delegates; 2 Clergy; 3 Male; 4 Female; 5 Number of Armenians represented; 6 Maximum number, actual was 398

The rubric of the “Service of Consecration of a Catholicos” states, “When they are prepared to raise someone to the dignity of the office of catholicos of Armenia, first they must hold an election according to the regulations of the universal church…. All the people of Armenian lineage, together with all the clergymen of the church and twelve bishops, shall elect from among them three men…and through scrutiny on the part of the Assembly, one of them who is in all matters acknowledged for good works and for virtuous life as a holy and immaculate man, full of knowledge and wisdom, shall be elected; one who can serve as a shepherd to the people entrusted to him by God.” The original of this rubric goes back to the twelfth century.

The functional structure of the Armenian Church is based primarily on the canons of the Armenian Church which were compiled and developed over the centuries. One of the most important aspects of the Armenian Church administration is its Conciliar system—i.e., the administrative, as well as doctrinal, liturgical, and canonical norms are set and approved by a council.  The decision in the church are made by a collective body, through a participatory decision making process. The Council of Bishops (or the Synod) is the highest religious authority in the Church, while the National Ecclesiastical Assembly is the highest legislative body.

Cardinal Cassidy on the Vatican

and the Armenian Church

Cardinal Edward Cassidy—President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the Vatican—was the head of the delegation sent by H.H. Pope John Paul II to the Enthronement Ceremony of H.H. Karekin I. The Vatican delegation included: Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, Apostolic Nuncio and the Vatican’s Ambassador in Armenia; Fr. Claudio Guggeroti, Congregation for the Oriental Churches in the Vatican; Fr. Bernard DuBaske, Director of the Oriental Section of the Pontifical Council. On April 7, 1995, Window Quarterlyheld a  brief interview with Cardinal Cassidy in Yerevan.  Here is an excerpt from that interview:

Window: Your Eminence, As representative of H.H. Pope John Paul II to the enthronement of H.H. Karekin I, what are you thoughts on this trip?

Cassidy:  We had joined the delegates at the election with our prayers during the first few days of this week. We were filled with great hope that this election would give the Armenian Church a leader who would be ready to cooperate and work together with us in the ecumenical field. You can imagine our pleasure and immense joy when we heard the result of the election. The new Catholicos is a man whom we all know personally and with whom we have worked—some of us for many years.  Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, knows him personally. I myself have had the joy of working with him personally over the past few years. I don’t think we could be more joyful than we are at this moment.

Window: How are relations between the Vatican and the Armenian Church in general?

Cassidy:  In brief, I would say that we have no great problems. But I believe that we have a lot of room in which we can work more closely together than we’ve been doing up to now.  I think there are areas of cooperation, such as bringing more help to people in need. We have, I think, a common problem facing us and that is the existence of sects and new [religious] movements who attack both of our churches very viciously. We need to be together more closely in order to resist those attacks upon our two churches. I think that is something we could look forward to now. As I said, we do not have major obstacles to overcome; we do have, from time to time, some misunderstandings. We have to make sure that we avoid those problems where possible and when they happen, we should come together and find a way out of those misunderstandings.  I think when we work together in the fields that are open to us we can overcome our differences.

The Delegation of the

Islamic Republic of Iran to the

Enthronement Ceremony of Karekin I

The Iranian delegation was headed by Hojatolislam Valmuslimi Sobhaniia—Member of the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Member of the Presidential Council and Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament. It included Mr. Vartan Vartanian, Delegate of the Armenians of Northern Iran to the Iranian Parliament, and a representative of the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

On April 9, 1995, Window Quarterly asked Hojatolislam Valmuslimi Sobhaniia about his visit to Etchmiadzin.

Window: As an Iranian cleric, what are your impressions of the enthronement ceremony held in Etchmiadzin?

Sobhaniia: In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful. For me as a clergyman, it was very impressive to be at the ceremony of the enthronement of the Christian leader of your nation.

In view of the good relations that exist between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Armenia, I and Mr. Vartanian, the representative of the Armenian community in Iran, participated in the ceremonies on behalf of the Iranian Parliament.  Our purpose was to be present at this great religious event and offer our congratulations to the Head of the Armenian Church and the Armenian people.

Generally speaking, what I saw at the ceremony [in Etchmiadzin] was very impressive and filled with spiritual significance.

On the occasion of the election of H.H. Karekin I, as Catholicos of All Armenians, I congratulate the people of Armenia, the Armenian nation and the government of the Republic of Armenia.

I wish His Holiness success in the difficult, serious and weighty tasks that he will carry out as the religious leader of the entire Armenian nation.

I would like to emphasize that the presence of Mr. Vartanian in our delegation is vocal proof that we also bring the good wishes of the Iranian Armenian community with us to His Holiness.

Considering the fact that His Holiness—having worked and lived in Iran [as Prelate of the Armenian Church]—is well acquainted with our country and people, I hope that his endeavors as Catholicos of All Armenians will include the further development and deepening of the already good relations that exist between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Armenia—as two neighbor countries and peoples.


• At the Ballot Box

“As I was voting in the Cathedral, I asked the Almighty to guide me in doing the exact thing for the ultimate welfare of the Armenian Church and nation; because we were not electing just anybody, it was the Supreme Catholicos of All Armenians, the spiritual head of all the Armenians.  I felt that it was a historical moment. A very important event in our lives. We were deciding the fate of the Armenian Church.” (April 4).

Yeghia Dickranian

Delegate representing the Armenian community of Jerusalem

• One the significance of the election

“With the enthronement of the new Catholicos, I expect the hopes that we had for free Armenia and free Armenian Church will be realized.  I hope that we will have a rebirth of faith and church life.  Our people was cut off from the church and the faith of our forefathers for many years. Now we will be able to recover that through education and revitalization of our church’s life.  The election of our new Catholicos coincides with the revival of our new spiritual and moral conscience.  It is my wish that the relationship of Armenia and Armenians all around the world would become practical, dear and honest; that we shall become one nation, one church, one faith and one luminous future.” (April 4).

Sen Arevshadian

Director of the Matenadaran—Mesrob Mashdotz Manuscripts Library and Delegate of the Ararat Diocese, Yerevan.

We will follow our king!

‘Well… I cannot say anything about the Armenian people or our church. I have been a musician and have played behind the walls of the Monastery of Etchmiadzin for 50 years.  I have seen the burial of  Catholicos Gevorg VI, I have seen the burial of Catholicos Vazken I and now this is the third event: we will have a new Catholicos. People are saying that they are going to elect Catholicos Karekin II. Well, whoever becomes our king, we will be his men. We will follow our king. Whether he is a good man or a bad man that’s their job. We are like this, we are followers. …well, what shall I say, I have fought for Armenia and I will sacrifice myself ‘til the end. That’s it. That’s all! Tzavt da’nem…” (April 2).

—Megrdich Hovanesian

80 year-old resident of Etchmiadzin


Just a thought!

If Archbishop Nercissian is elected, then we’ll have a period where we will say “Karekin Vehapar” and all of us will understand whoever we want.

Maybe if their actions are synchronized we may not even know the difference! We may even have Primates and Prelates whose actions are synchronized! And we start going to Churches for both Sees.

Easter is near! Anything is possible!

Toros Babikian

via the internet (April 3)

I’ve been a subscriber to Window from the beginning and I love your coverage of the election.  Do I get any Electoral votes?

Harout Topsacalian

IDEA, Inc.

via the internet

I wanted to thank you for this election covereage and hope that you continue to provide information about the Armenian church on the email network.  I am an Armenian graduate student and do not get to go church as much as I would like.  I feel like this at least gives me some sort of a link!

Pamela Young

University of Michigan

via the internet

What’s in a name?

When the new Catholicos was elected in Etchmiadzin, a British journalist overheard a phone conversation through an open window. Unfortunately, only one side of the conversation was audible, but an Armenian was apparently explaining the election to a baffled editor.

—This Karekin got 124 votes in the ballot, so he’s now Catholicos Karekin?

—Karekin didn’t make it, though he got the most votes?

—So this second ballot was the one that counted? What was wrong with the first ballot?

—I see. So who won the second time around?

—It was also Karekin but not the same guy who won the first time around?

—So the guy who won was Catholicos Karekin. How come he’s already a Catholicos then?

—I get you. This Karekin II of Antelias, not the same as the other Karekin, won the election on the second go and now becomes Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, right?

—So this guy was Karekin II, now he’s Karekin I  So when does he get to be Karekin 0?

At this point the window was closed, and the rest of the conversation was lost.

Did we need to Elect a Catholicos?

by Fr. Vazken Movsesian

Now that Armenia is independent and the republic has its own president, why did we need to elect a Catholicos? Our intention is not to demean the office of the catholicos, here, rather it is to alert our attention to the rhetoric surrounding the election of Karekin I.

We have heard on many occasions the phrase that the Armenian Church has a national mission. Somehow, the Armenian Church has been responsible for the deliverance of the Armenian national consciousness and should not stray from this “holy” mission of saving the Armenian nation. We have been indoctrinated with this message throughout the years from our hierarchs, to our priests, to the laity. We continue to hear this rhetoric today, in all facets of our church.

Fine. If this is the case, now that Armenia is an independent republic, is there a need for the Church? Now that Armenia has a president, is there a need for the Catholicos?

Obviously, the Church is much more than a platform for national preservation. The real challenge follows: now that Armenia is independent, now that Armenia has a president, the time has come to drop the baggage of the nation-saving and concentrate on the true soul-saving mission of the Church. As we have written on many occasions on these pages of Window, if we are faithful to our mission as expressed in the Holy Gospels, then, and only then can we begin to alleviate the pain and suffering of a nation in turmoil— that being the Armenian nation by virtue of our charter. Because, only when we understand the Church as a divinely established institution, do we understand its mission as Holy — to continue the mission which Christ began centuries ago: giving sight to the blind, setting at liberty those who are oppressed and proclaiming the Kingdom of God enacted.

The Armenian nation is in need of healing and salvation — economically and spiritually. The Church must inspire the soul, move the spirit for the economic fixes to become real.

The election of His Holiness Karekin I signals a new era in the life of the Armenian Church. We applaud the decision of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly in its selection of Karekin I. We are further elated by the tone His Holiness set for his pontificate. Immediately following his election, he met with the delegates and gave an opportunity for prayer. He read from the scriptures, relinquishing the archaic krapar for a colloquial translation. He quoted from the Book of Matthew (ch. 25) stressing a “working theology” — where God works through His people.

This may not seem strange from the outside, but in the Armenian Church it is a novelty to have a hierarch holding a Bible and uttering a non-formula prayer. From our vantage point, it is also most welcome by a people looking for spirituality from their church hierarchs. The Bible passage he selected was also significant in that it moved the Church from idealism to pragmatism. Above all else, it signaled a new beginning in the life of the Armenian Church.

The Catholicos will have his work cutout for him in the next few month. Once the “honeymoon” period is over, he will be susceptible to the criticisms of the self-appointed “guardians” of our national identity. Furthermore, he will inevitably have to deal with the issue of administrative unity in the Diaspora. It will be a difficult period of settlement and adjustment for the new Catholicos, and we continue to offer our prayers of support.

Here, we take the opportunity to remind our readers of our collective responsibility within the Church. Particularly, through Window—which now enters its fifth year of publication— we have an opportunity to accentuate and align our focus on the true mission of the Church. It will be up to us — the Church — to remind our clergy, our laity, our hierarchs and our catholicos that the Armenian Church is Christ-ordained and Christ-centered. We must remember that Armenia has a president! Armenia is independent! A catholicos has been elected and enthroned by the people and by the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us not give an opportunity to degrade the office with secular nonesense.

We join our readership in prayer for our new Catholicos and the blossoming of the Armenian Church through his leadership.

Computer Projected another Catholicos?

April 2, 1995—What would an election coverage be without projections? How about the next best thing — a computer simulated election? The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group (ACRAG) has once again applied the “technology to the institution” in selecting the next Catholicos just two days before the election. And the winner? Archbishop Zaven Chinchinian of Egypt.

The object of this technical exercise was to find the most qualified bishop for the position, and not necessarily the one most likely to win the election.

The computer program assigned different rankings to the candidates based on a number of criteria, including spirituality, administrative skills, organization of candidate’s diocese, years of service to the Church and ecumenical considerations.

If the elections were based purely on merit, with no outside factors, Abp. Chinchinian would be elected, or at least he would be a top contender. Unlike this mock election, the actual election in Etchmiadzin, includes human and political factors which were too complex to account for in this program.

Archbishop Chinchinian is the primate of Egypt. He was born in 1929 in Aleppo, Syria. He was ordained a priest in 1951 and consecrated bishop by the late Catholicos Vazken I in 1965.

Window Vol. I, No. 1 • Premier issue

The first issue of Window is an eight-page introduction that sets the tone and scope of this “new” publication.    It consists of three articles written by the editors and a translation of Patriarch Torkom Kushagian’s “Revival in the Armenian Church.”

Window Vol. I, No. 2 • Armenian Theology of Liberation

This issue provides a series of articles in search of an Armenian theology of Liberation, stimulating discussion and dialogue between Armenian church members and theologians.

Window Vol. I, No. 3 • 1915—The Year the Church Died

This entire issue is dedicated to the martyred clergy of the Armenian Church during the Genocide of 1915.  With this issue, Window turns the views of its readers back 75 years and provides a glimpse of the pre-Genocide Armenian Church.  For the first time in the English language, the monumental work of Teotig—a scribe who tediously recorded the lives of the martyrdom of the Armenian clergy—is presented with statistical and analytical charts.

Window Vol. I, No. 4 • Is the collar choking the Priest?

This issue discusses the role for the Armenian priest from the perspective of both the Armenian community and the Church.  In doing so, it dispels some of the stereotypes and myths associated with the Armenian clergy.

Window Vol. II, No. 1 • Cults in Armenia

In an attempt to educated the Armenian community on the dangers of cults, this issue provides an extensive coverage of cults presently operating in Armenia.  The deep psychological wounds caused by the 1988 earthquake have facilitated the infiltration of various cults into Armenia under false pretenses.  This issue of Window poses a challenge to the Armenian community and the Church, by the fact that “the cults will do what we neglect!

Window Vol. II, No. 2 • International conference of Armenian clergy

The first ever International Conference of Armenian Clergy held in New York, June 17-21, 1991 is covered with exclusive interviews and analysis by the Window editors.   An inside view of the conference is provided.    Detailed information about the current situation in Armenia by the directors and leaders of the Center for the Propagation of Faith. Candid and alarming revelations regarding the religious awakening in Armenia and the Church’s ability (or inability) to provide for the needs of the people.

Window Vol. II, No. 3 • Are All Brands the Same?

This issue of Window explores the Armenian Protestant and Roman Catholics churches, providing a history of their development and place within the Armenian Community.  A candid discussion of possible means of reapprochement is provided.  Also, the place of the Armenian Church within the world Church community is explored with statements by the Orthodox Churches and reflections concerning the cost of unity.  This issue is filled with facts and information. A map of religions is provided as a centerpiece to this important volume.


The understanding of myths and their place in religious perception is the theme of this issue, especially as it is applied in the Armenian Church and community.  The main article gives an excellent definition and explanation of what Myth is.  Articles discuss services in the liturgical tradition of the Armenian Church, namely Blessing of Madagh and Chrismation.


This issue presents a series of interviews conducted in Armenia, which give a general view of the state of the church and religion in the post-soviet Republic of Armania. There are conversations with the Catholicos, representatives of Armenian political parties; Armenian “skinheads,” and others who are closely invoved with the church.

Window Vol. III, No. 2 • Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is among those topics that are normally avoided in church life. However, in this issue, ordained and lay workers in the church candidly write about their  experiences in the Armenian Church and share their thoughts about hypocrisy in the community.

Window Vol. III, No. 3 & 4 • Death: The Kevorkian Factor

Death and Dying, Euthanasia and assisted suicide are among the main topics of this issue.  The articles discuss the issues in the context of the controversy of assisted suicide that became a matter of public debate, especially through the actions of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, or “Doctor Death” as he became known by the American media.

Window Vol. IV, No. 1 • Theology of War: Karabakh

The main focus of this issue is the religious revival in Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the war in the region.  Two significant interviews – with the Primate of the Diocese of Karabakh and the Editor of Kantzasar Theological Journal – are the highlights of this issue.

Window Vol. IV, No. 2 • Pontifical Election Process

In Memoriam issue dedicted to the blessed memory of His Holiness Vazken I (1908-1994). Historical process of election of a catholicos are presented with statistics and charts, as well as brief profiles of the 45 candidates for the 1995 election. Also, in an exclusive interview, H.H. Karekin II, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, reflects on the mission of the Armenian Church today.

Window Vol. IV, No. 3 • Journey to a Promised Land

The issue of non-Armenians in the Armenian Church is discussed in a candid and critical look at the Armenian Church. The issue includes an interview with a non-Armenian candidate for the priesthood and an indept analysis of the spiritual life within the diasporan Armenian community.

Window Vol. IV., No. 4 • Oekimeni

Archbishop Aram Keshishian is featured in this issue, which focuses on the unity movements between the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Oriental Churches. Keshishian presents his views through an interview and article.

√The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group (ACRAG) was founded in 1989 by a group of clergy and laity of the Armenian Church.  ACRAG attempts to feel the need for a professional and innovative approach to the matters facing the Armenian people in general and the Armenian Church in particular. With a firm commitment to the Traditions of the Church and sharing the vision of St. Gregory the Illuminator, ACRAG, through its Window, provides a forum for contemporary Church thought.  The aims of ACRAG are: Through research and observations, highlight the role of the Armenian Church in the life of the Armenian people; To provide a forum for dialogue and discussion on matters concerning the Church today; To provide publications that would further contribute to the growth of the Armenian community in the Faith of their forefathers; To fill the gap between the National and Religious characteristics of the Armenian Community.