Corrupt Clergy of Armenia Damage Apostolic Church

Karen Mkrtchyan, India, 1 August 2011

The following is in response to John K.’s comment. Ed.

Who is destroying whom now? Whose interests Echmiadzin serves?

Dear John K.,

Your reference to Tashnags and Hnchags are sadly to the point. There was a lot of disagreement between these two parties, not to mention other parties. Unfortunately, we Armenians have a bad record when it comes to unity. This shortcoming has caused a great suffering to our nation. It’s foolish to run away from the historic facts, no matter how bitter they may be.

Back in the days when different Armenian political groups argued against each other, one thing remained common– ALL OF THEM ACTED WITH THE INTEREST OF ARMENIA AND ARMENIANS IN MIND. Every party wanted a bright future for Armenia; they differed only in their opinions on how to achieve this aim. It happens everywhere. Here, in India (radicals versus the moderates) these differences in approach weakened the independence movement and advanced Lord Dalhousie’s “divide and rule” strategy. Similar divisions have taken place in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, etc. So pointing the finger at Tashnags and Hnchags is misguided. At least they wanted what’s best for Armenia, and worked toward that goal.

My point is this: what is Echmiadzin doing now? Are we destroying Armenian society by commenting on the drawbacks of our religious leaders, or is our clergy contributing to the destruction what Armenia has always upheld as holy? I recommend you conduct a personal survey in Armenia. When I went back to Armenia last year, I tried to do a little survey in my hometown. More than 80% of the citizens have not attended a full divine liturgy. To them church attendance lasts five minutes maximum–light a candle, take a picture and walk out. Most of them don’t know the Lord’s Prayer, have not even read a single page from the Bible, don’t know more than two or three prayers (if they know at all) and don’t even know when was Christianity declared state religion in Armenia and under which king. They have heard of Krikor Lusavorcih, but half of them have no clue as to who he is, except that they know he had some connection with Khor Virab. What is most shocking is that most have heard more about Jehovah’s Witnesses than about Jesus, although they believe Christ to be God’s Son. I am sure my hometown is not alone as far as the pathetic religious condition is concerned.

How is it that although ruled for so many years by Zoroastrian Persians and Muslim Turks we retained our religion and traditions, no matter how much these occupiers tried to change our beliefs but now, just 20 years after independence, we see so many people following new sects and cults? Why are the people losing faith in the Church? How is it that after over 1,700 years of Christianity, Armenians look away at other faiths? How are these new organizations able to make the Armenians go against not only their Church but also our national values?

The bigger question is “What has the Church done to combat these new ‘faiths'”? Instead of fighting against these social evils, which are growing like epidemic, clergymen are contributing to the popularity of these cults by their sorry behaviour. It’s no wonder so many people don’t go to church. Why is the Armenian clergy not dissuading people from changing their national faith? If the Church establishes credible connections with the people, maybe it would be able to bring back the people to the Mother Church. If they speak more about God and less about money it might help. Maybe if they act more like respectable clergymen and less like businessmen and mafia members, people would trust them. Now nobody trusts them; nobody respects His Holiness Karekin II. Hence, people don’t go to church or even care to learn about the Armenian Church or Christianity.

When I was a kid, I was taught that a clergyman, a “Hokevoragan” was a person who had denounced worldly pleasures and had devoted himself to the service of the people, the Church and God. Tell me what part of the life of the clergy is not full of worldly pleasures these days? Is it the gold they wear, the disreputable girls they chase, the fancy cars they drive? It is said that the Catholicos has children in Yerevan. With this kind of behaviour by the head of the clergy is it a wonder that people are staying away from the Church?

Has what the Church done and is doing brought us closer to our Church or made us move from it ? Have the clergymen done enough to maintain out faith and traditions or have they worked against our sacred values? Call me what you will; accuse me of sowing seeds of division, but I just can’t respect our clergy anymore. There are many Armenians like me–and many who are leaving the faith to follow other faiths.

So please, don’t cite examples from Tashnag and Hnchag quarrels of the past. Open your eyes wide and see what’s going on. We, who criticize the Church, are doing what’s right. We aren’t dividing society. We care for our country, religion and Church. We are at least taking action. Pointing the finger at us will neither make you an Armenian patriot, nor will help you get an award from Catholicos Karekin II. Be fair, be honest, be Armenian. Who is destroying whom now? Whose interest is Echmiadzin serving?


  1. Catholicos Karekin II and his courtiers

    Catholicos Karekin II and his courtiers will not give up their guns, expensive cars and scarlet women since they are members of the same cabal as SS (Serge Sargsian). The way to bring about change in the Armenian Church is to put pressure on SS from Diaspora congregations and clergy. If Sargsian feels the heat, he will pull Karekin (who has children in Armenia and two grown-up daughters in Florida) aside and advise him that Karekin's "leadership" is damaging Sargsian's authority. 

  2. Dear Karen,I think you

    Dear Karen,

    I think you misunderstood my comment.  When Costantinapol was surounded by the Turkish armies, the clergy were debating over stupid things e.g. " how many angels could land on the head of a pin" etc. Let us concentrate our efforts on more important things E.G. How to stop emigration? How to provide jobs to our people in Armenia.  Remember Sigmund Freud’s human needs?  SURVIVAL IS OF HIGHEST PRIORITY! Even the best intentions will not put food on the table.  People are hungry!  They can not feed their families.  They are perfect prey for any kind of religion that provides them with food.  This has happened before, during the Armenian Genocide, people converted to Catholicism and became Protestants not because they disliked the Armenian Church but because they were hungry and wanted to survive!  So get real.  Come back to the 21st century!

  3. John Jan

    Dear John,
    I did not misunderstand your comment at all. My above reply (posted as an article by the editor.) answers the above comment too. However, I will reply to you point by point.

    You said:
    "Let us concentrate our efforts on more important things E.G. How to stop emigration? How to provide jobs to our people in Armenia."   

    Do you mean we should ignore what the clergy are doing because there are other problems Armenia faces? Armenia and every country has always faced problems and probably always will. So when do you suggest we discuss this? The clergy have been misbehaving for some time, and it is the silence that has allowed them to do so. Maybe had we objected at the begining, they would not have grown so shameless. Armenians have been ignorant of and tolerant to these games and thus we have the prevailing pathetic condition. And yet even today you suggest we do not discuss these issues. Could you tell us then when exactly is the right time to discuss these important issues?

    "People are hungry!  They can not feed their families."

    Exactly. That is the point that angers us the most. When half the people are hungry and jobless, why are the priests enjoying a life of luxury? Why are clergymen driving top-brand cars, travelling here to there, doing business when the population of Armenia is left with little or no prospect for survival? The Church has a lot of funds; yet clergymen are doing their best to get more. Don’t you think if they use this money for the betterment of the people, we might be able to solve some of the problems you mentioned yourself?

    "They are perfect prey for any kind of religion that provides them with food."

     John, why can’t one of those religions be our own faith–the Armenian Apostolic Christianity? If the Church knows that due to their poor social conditions people are embracing other religions, why is it not doing anything to stop it? Don’t tell them they don’t have the funds to do it. Don’t tell me the new sects are better off financially than Echmiadzin. Why don’t the Armenian priests organize a campaign against these sects, find out the reasons why people change faith and chalk out a proper plan to fight them and restore the Armenian society back to its glory, national ethics and values? But they don’t care, do they? The same empty stomach that’s being fed by Jehovah’s Witnesses can also be fed by the Armenian Church. Why is it not being done? 

    "…during the Armenian Genocide, people converted to Catholicism and became Protestants not because they disliked the Armenian Church but because they were hungry and wanted to survive!"

    People want to survive now, too. It would be really good if the Armenian Church helped them, instead of these new sects doing it. The Church is not only refusing to help, but moreover it’s making conditions worse by looting the people. That is the disgusting part of it all.  

    Those days people shifted only because they were hungry? I won’t argue about this. Let us say you are right. However, today hunger is not the only reason. People are disgusted with our clergy. They have simply lost their faith in them–from the very top to the last person in the Church’s brotherhood. Given the behaviour of the priests, it is no wonder people ignore our faith. 

    "So get real.  Come back to the 21st century!"

    Maybe you should think about getting real and comming back to the 21st century.
    Thank you.

    1. Karen Jan, You still don’t get it

      Karen Jan,

      You still don’t get it! You make me sound like I am defending the clergy which is not the case.  I will be the last person on earth to do that.  You did not address my opening statement about the "fall of Costantinople".  All I am saying is that we have limited resources and we should prioritize the problems that are facing our nation and try to solve the ones that have the highest priority.  The Azeries are doing a lot of sabre rattling lately, shouldn’t we take them seriously? 

      Maybe if I tell you a story, you will understand where I am coming from: "There was an accident and one of the passengers was seriously injured and needed immediate attention.  Two ambulances show-up at the scene and started fighting/argueing about who got there first and who should take the injured to the hospital."  In our case the injured is Armenia and the Armenian nation!  If we don’t take care of the injured first, nothing else would matter.  I hope this will clarify everthing. 


      1. John You misunderstood.

         Dear John,

        I did not minunderstand you, and at no point tried to accuse you of defending the clergy. I appologise if my comments made you believe so. While I agree with you that one should solve their problems based on their magnitude, I still do not think the pathetic condition of the church is a trivial matter.

        Yes we do have other major problems too, but at no point do they serve reason enough to neglect this topic. First of all this topic should have been discussed earlier – had it been, things would be different now. Today, with the conditions worsening everyday, you still suggest we don’t discuss this? How much longer do we have to wait? It’s been long enough already. We should of course solve other problems,but we should solve this too simultainously. Solving one and neglecting the other is no solution, of course unless it is the ambulance and the injured story. However, I still dont think it applies to this case. Moreover,  I see one of the ‘ambulances’ as the clergy themselves, while the Armenian people remain to be the injured. 

        Please John-I agree with you. However, allow me to say my opinion that it does not apply here. We cannot ignore something that has been neglected long enough. We see the consqunces now. 

        God Bless. 

        Thank You. 

        1. Dear Karen & John

          Dear Karen and John,

          I have followed your dialogue with interest. In essence, I think,  both of you agree on the major issues and I see no essential difference between what the two of you, distinguished gentlemen, are saying.

          It’s a matter of priorities, as John says, but it’s also equally valid argument telling that if the church corruption was dealt earlier, then this discussion would have not taken place.

          Unfortunately the sad situation in the church continues, and it is part of the overall societal problems that Armenia faces. Not talking about one part of the issue is like ignoring an essential problem in favor of talking about the overall situation in abstract.

          Without identifying the problems one by one, discussing about them, it’s impossible to have an  overall picture of what’s evolving in our beloved Motherland and establishing priorities of how to handle them in Armenia and in Diaspora..

          Kudos to both of you in trying to identify and discuss the problems. That’s a start to go forward and think of solutions without hurting each other’s feeling by "understood-misunderstood" expressions. I hope I am wrong.

          I personally am delighted to see a person from India conversing with another from USA. Let’s keep a positive attitude and continue our search.



          1. Thank you Samuel

            Thank you Samuel for your kind words.  There is no hard feelings here.  We just agreed to disagree.  Immorality in the church is nothing new.  This has been going on for centuries.  Even Krikor Lussavorich I beleive had two sons and some of our Cathoghigoses had children.  And this is not unique to the Armenian Church, some of the Popes had children too but corruption is another ugly fact.  We probably would not have known about it if we did not have the internet.  I agree that this issue/problem need to be addressed but not at the expense of more urgent life and death situations.


            John K.



          2. Thank You Samuel & John.

            Thank you Samuel jan for appreciating our comments. And yes don’t worry John and mysef are just discussing the situation, both of us having Armenia’s interest in mind. I feel it is required. I just turned 19 years old, and I think the future of our country and our people lies in our hands. Hence it is very much required for us to indulge in such kind of dscussions and try and learn from other people and share opinions, so that in future we can at least have a rough idea of the good, the bad and the ugly, which will in turn make us do only what’s best for our nation. 

            Please don’t think that at any point John and myself tried to anything but constructive discussion. The "agree & disagree" mean nothing than their meaning . No ill feelings at all. 

            And John if you ever happened to think I was rude or mean in any of my comments, then I deeply appologise. I didn’t mean it. 

            Thank you Samuel and John. It’s a pleasure discussing our country’s future with such proud Armenians. God Bless you both. God Bless the staff of and God Bless Armenia. 



  4. While I agree

    While I agree with most of the accusations levelled at the Armenian clergy by Keghart lettter writers, I have to point out that part of the blame should be absorbed by the Armenian people–in Armenia and in Diaspora.

    Which parent encourages his or her capable and dedicated children to become a clergyman? What would be your reaction if your son came to you and said he wanted to become a priest? Would you dissuade or encourage him? What is the motivation of people who become clergymen? Are they spiritual and patriotic people or are they looking for a job or a visa to get out of Armenia or the Middle East? Do we take pride when we announce to family and friends that one of our family members has decided to join the Church or do we feel ambarrassed at the "failure" of the candidate who couldn’t become a doctor/lawyer/dentist/pharmacist..?

    Perhaps it’s a chicken-and-egg story. Did we lose respect for the clergy because they are not impressive or are they not impressive because we don’t encourage our best and dedicated to join the Church? Is it a case of the people getting the clergyman they deserve?

    1.  Ձուկը գլխից է հոտում. The fish rots from its head.

      Dear Vrej,

      If my son comes one day and tells me that he wants to become a priest, I will not allow him for the simple reason:- I do not wish to see my son hated by the society. Unfortunately, when majority of the priests are corrupt, no matter how good a priest my son or any other person may be, he will still be looked at with utter disgust and hatred-sad but true, for today there no doubt are some good clergymen who nevertheless get abused for the misconducts of their fellow priests. The reason why I will object his decision to become a priest will obviosuly not be because I would think that he is not "good’ enough to become a true priest and that I should not encourage bad elements like him to ruin our church. That would be strange if any parent thought his son to be worse than the clergymen now.

      However, even if I saw the potential in my son to become a true clergyman, with all the zeal and motivation, I would still not let him try his luck. Ask me why. Well because it’s not how most priests choose to be. It’s how they are made to be. The 7 years they spend in the Gevorgyan Seminary just makes them the way they are. They are groomed up in that maner, slowly plucking out their conscience from these young priests-to-be. So it’s not about parents letting their children to go and become bad clergy. They send their kids, and these young people go motivated to serve the church, but what they are taught is more like ‘Heil Hitler’, if you get my point. It’s like either they serve his holiness or the people – One has to be happy in the process, and if that someone is the public, then you are against his holiness.  I have had friends  who quit after 2 years. They couldn’t take the whole process aymore, and trust me, since childhood this guy wanted to be a preist. Everything he spoke of was about God, and listened to Komitas’ and Yekmalan’s liturgies. Now if he quit, I can say what the condition is. 
      And yes, why not. Seeing the kingly life led by the clergy, many would go and become a priest. Who is to blame? 

      Hence, remember, the same happens in Echmiadzin, under HH’s nose. 

      Thank You.

    2. Our Clergy and Our Nation

      While it's true that part of the Armenian Church's dilemma is that we discourage our sons from becoming clergymen, investing time now to that core problem would distract us from the urgent work of toppling pretend-catholicos KII. Once a qualified catholicos is elected (without resorting to fraud), he can form a council, committee, etc. to address the vital subject of improving the quality of our clergymen.

      Right now we have clergymen who have joined the Church because there was nothing else they could do. We have clergymen whose only "qualification" is that they have a good voice, look good in ecclesiastical robes and with a beard. We also have priests whose prime qualification is that they adhere to a certain political party. We have priests who should have never been allowed to join the Church but were admitted because of the shortage of qualified candidates. Then we have the "visa clergymen": they've joined the Church with the hope or promise they would be given a North American parish. During a recent interview, one of the Armenia priests criticizing the KII regime said that far too many Echmiadzin hangers-on clergymen count the days KII will fire a yet another diaspora clergymen and grant the lucrative parish to them.

      It's also time the congregation, especially in Europe, Australia, and in the Americas learned how much our clergymen earn. What other benefits (vehicle, accommodation, health insurance, etc.) do they receive? As well, how does their salary compare with the salaries of other "Eastern Orthodox" churchmen?   

      Finally, how about baptism, wedding, and funeral fees? Who sets the rates? What percentage does the priest receive? Recently an acquaintance paid close to $650 for baptism which lasted all of thirty minutes. That's $22 per minute. How much of the fee went to the priest is something my acquaintance and I'd like to know.


  5. How can we fight the new faiths?


    You clearly share the same concerns and agree on much, but I think that we are all frustrated by our remote diasporan positions and lack of hard facts.  I’ve read your posts and am moved to offer a few meager words of advice and encouragement:

    The rumors are rampant, but the facts are veiled at best.  What are the names of Karekin’s 2 grown daughters and where do they live  in Florida?  Who are his other children?  Who are their mothers and where do they live?   Also, who is paying the salary of your local priest and supervising him?  In this day and age, people need names and faces and verifiable facts.  With an open heart and mind, these things speak for themselves.  Without them we can talk to ourselves, but otherwise we have nothing.

    With deepest respect,  Ara

    PS:   How can we fight the "new faiths," without confronting our own faith first?

  6. Echmiadzin Under Assault

    Armenian Catholicoses from St. Gregory the Illuminator to Sahak I Paerev (387- 430) were married. Five catholicoses in all were from the house of Partew. To protect the church from the heriditary succession, celibacy was adopted in the Armenian Church. The second reason was to stop the moveable and inmoveable property of the church remaining in the hands of one family. Also for this very reason the Armenian Council of Shahapivan objects to to the practice of two brothers from the same family being ordained celebate priest.

    1. Two Celibate Brothers

      I thought the requirement for the celibate priesthood to those who are the "princes'' of the Armenian Apostolic Church was for them not to be burdened with family responsibilities of their own when they are expected to father the nation.

      I did not know that the Armenian Apostolic Church has had a ruling forbidding the ordination of two brothers as celibate priests.

      Have there been other celibate brothers serving the church concurrently much like the Vehapar and his brother?

  7. The Armenian church is ancient

    The Armenian church has been around for 1700 years.
    It's old and lazy.
    It figures it will easily be around another 1700 years by simply doing practically nothing.
    All it cares about is simply surviving.
    It doesn't need to work hard to do that. 
    Most of the clergy are as boring and uninspiring as hell too.  Total blah.

    I suggest an inspiring Armenian Protestant man to take over the reins temporarily. 
    They have the spirit and the dedication. I'm serious.

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