By Hagop Hagopian, Ontario, 14 December 2021
Horse latitude is an area on both sides of the equator where occasionally the winds die rendering sailing ships stationary. According to folk etymology, several centuries ago, Spanish sailors trapped in a windless ocean, would throw their horses overboard because of the diminishing supply of water. Thus, the region came to be known as horse latitudes.
Following several months of scandal and controversy regarding the fate of Jerusalem’s Goveroun Bardez, the issue has seemingly settled into doldrums…into horse latitudes. After publicly stating their opposition to Patriarch Manougian’s decision to sign a secret 99-year lease for Goveroun Bardez to a Jewish businessman from Australia, the clergymen have gone silent, apparently without a Plan B. Meanwhile, Armenian Jerusalemites have remained silent because many live in church-owned residences, send their children to the church-owned Armenian school and their main socializing centres—the clubs—are in the patriarchate-owned Armenian Convent. One vociferous anti-lease person has been banned from entering the convent. Meanwhile, the three main diaspora political parties have remained silent like the Sphinx.
It is obvious that unless a new factor — a catalyst — enters the equation, the wrongheaded and obstinate Patriarch Manougian and his co-conspirators (Fr. Baret Yeretsian and doddering “yes man” Archbishop Sevan Gharibian) will get away with their treacherous and church-and-nation damaging plot to give away Armenian national land to almost-perpetuity. The trio behave as if the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem is their personal property inherited from their parents. We say “national” because the Armenian Quarter, which includes Goveroun Bardez, was acquired in the past millennium through the donations of Armenians—rich and poor, peasant and pilgrim, merchant and nobleman. The Aleppo-born Johnny come lately (actually, Boghosig come lately) patriarch is merely a steward (97th) of the Armenian nation’s patrimony in the Holy Land.
According to unconfirmed reports from people close to the patriarchate, the Goveroun Bardez giveaway is the tip of the iceberg: other real estate assets may have been sold or their sale would be made public when the Goveroun Bardez storm dissipates.
There are also indications that the ailing patriarch is eager to retire but is inveigled by grey eminence Yeretsian to stay because if the patriarch goes, Yeretsian’s days would be numbered. Jerusalem is the last sanctuary of Yeretsian after his checkered (to put it politely) career in North America. He has nowhere left to go. In the vulgar parlance of Yeretsian, Jerusalem is his last-chance saloon.
But there’s a glimmer of hope that the Nourhan/Baret/Sevan Axis will not get away with its betrayal of the Armenian Nation and Church. That hope comes from an unlikely source: President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas opposes the Goveroun Bardez almost-forever lease because he rightly sees it as further encroachment on Christian and Muslim lands in the Holy Land. A few days ago, President Abbas sent a large delegation to Armenia to consult with Catholicos Karekin and government officials on how to stop the Goveroun Bardez secret agreement from becoming reality. Through the delegation, Mr. Abbas invited the Catholicos to Jerusalem for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
It’s important that the Catholicos accepts the invitation. It is his—and the nation’s–best opportunity to examine the lease agreement which the patriarch and the deplorable Yeretsian have refused to divulge, contrary to every legal and moral imperative. Their secrecy encourages the justified speculation that they will personally benefit financially if the deal is not declared null and void.
We believe the patriarch will not be able to stonewall the Catholicos for the simple reason that if he does, he would lose all legitimacy and become another Judah or Vasag…a nobody with a proclivity for mini chocolate balls. He would become a pitiful effigy representing no one let alone be the autocephalous leader of the Holy Land Armenians. If he refuses to recant the notorious deal he will become a pariah, and will be forever ostracized by the Nation and the Church.
The Holy Land visit of the Catholicos would be the best opportunity to liberate Goveroun Bardez from the claws of speculators and a handful of rancid and incompetent—if not corrupt–“clergymen” who through cruel fate are in charge of one of Armenian nation’s most precious assets.