Press Release – Church Council of ArACS

  Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland
  St. Hagop Armenian Church
  Route de Troinex 64
  1256 Troinex (GE)
  Switzerland
  E-mail:
a.a.church.switzerland@gmail.com

28 June 2011

 
Dear Compatriots,
Dear Faithful Members of the Armenian Apostolic Church,
Dear Members of the Ecclesial Community

The Vehapar Karekin II has deprived us of:

-The services of Fr. Abel Manoukian
-The freedom to choose our own priest
-The right to organize ourselves as per our will
-Our attachment to our Holy See of Etchmiadzin.
 

  Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland
  St. Hagop Armenian Church
  Route de Troinex 64
  1256 Troinex (GE)
  Switzerland
  E-mail:
a.a.church.switzerland@gmail.com

28 June 2011

 
Dear Compatriots,
Dear Faithful Members of the Armenian Apostolic Church,
Dear Members of the Ecclesial Community

The Vehapar Karekin II has deprived us of:

-The services of Fr. Abel Manoukian
-The freedom to choose our own priest
-The right to organize ourselves as per our will
-Our attachment to our Holy See of Etchmiadzin.
 

For several months now, Holy See of Etchmiadzin has been intensifying the diffusion of erroneous information about the Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland in order to justify its dictatorial policies and to minimize the legitimacy of the backlash of our community. 
 
In order to allow you to draw a distinction between what is truth and what is not, we document for your perusal the following unequivocal and uncontestable facts:
 


History

 

On 27 September 1992 at the request of the members of the Church Council of Switzerland but without consultation of their ecclesial community , H. H. Vazken I pronounced the creation of a Diocese in Switzerland.  

  

On 21 November 1993, the General Assembly was to vote on the statutes and organs that would have transformed the Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland into a Diocese. This vote never took place due to the tension that members of the Community had with their Council. Therefore, this Diocesan decision, without a body to support it, was never promulgated by statute, and its creation was never submitted to a vote of the members of the General Assembly until 2010. Despite this, two communities within the Neuchatel-Jura and Zurich regions constituted themselves as parishes of this future ‘Diocese’.
 
As numbers and demographic information may be used to manipulate opinion, let us specify that if Switzerland is comprised of approximately 4,000 inhabitants of Armenian origin, only some of which bear any interest in the life of this community, among them are scarcely 500 individuals who could be said to participate actively in the life of our Church.
 
Today, a majority of these are registered and paying members of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland, while the rest adhere to the parish structures of Neuchatel-Jura and Zurich.

 

Since 1992, our ecclesial community pursued activities on the basis of the Statutes of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland, recognized and endorsed by H. H. Vazken I in 1985.
 
It was in October 1995 that our priest Fr. Abel Manoukian, upon the invitation of the Church Council, began his work and functions in Switzerland with a contract and legal work permit. The launch of his work at that time received the endorsement and approval of H. H. Karekin I and of Fr. Viken Aikazian.
 
Throughout all of this period until 2010, Holy See of Etchmiadzin recognized our priest as well as the successive elected church councils with which normal communications were conducted.

 

In February 2001, H. H. Karekin II sent two emissaries to Geneva, the archbishops Kude Nakachian and Zaven Tchintchinian, to address the question of a Diocese with principal leaders of the Armenian community. The outcome of their findings expressed that «the Armenian community of Switzerland is not disposed to accept a Diocese.»
 
The first collective consultations of the community upon the question of adopting a Diocesan structure took place in 2010 and 2011 with each time a very clear and overwhelming majority rejected in culmination. The course of these exchanges with Etchmiadzin has been detailed in previous communications.
 

Despite the clear desire of the majority of the faithful members of the community in Switzerland, it appears that H. H. Karekin II has sought nevertheless to impose a Diocese. To this end, he sought the collaboration of Father Abel Manoukian and the Church Council.   As both of the aforementioned lack the power and autonomy to act against the will of the General Assembly, the Vehapar found himself deprived of support. 

 

He began then to apply increasing levels of pressure on Father Abel Manoukian, announcing first his retrenching from Switzerland (February 2011), then his suspension (10 May 2011) and finally his defrocking (1 June 2011). He completed the ousting of Father Abel Manoukian by appointing a “locum tenens” for the Diocese of Switzerland (as substitute for the Bishop who should have arrived) in the form of Father Mesrop Parsamyan.   The Vehapar simultaneously appointed Father Mesrop Parsamyan as priest of the Church of St. Hagop in Troinex, without any consultation with the Church Council and contrary to the will expressed by the General Assembly on 6 March 2011 to maintain Father Abel in his position. 

 

In order to realize his plans and the mission of Father Mesrop Parsamyan in Switzerland, Vehapar has appealed to the highest political circles in Armenia and Karabakh, in order to obtain the help of their Armenian friends and business contacts in Switzerland.

 

In March 2011, a famous watchmaker and his close collaborator, two Armenians who had heretofore remained well distanced from the affairs of our committees and assemblies, suddenly turned their attention on the life of our church. They adopted the plans of the Vehapar (to distance Father Abel Manoukian, implement a diocese, and install Father Mesrop Parsamyan) with deliberate disregard for the legitimately voted upon decisions passed in General Assembly. 

 

These two ‘apostles’ of the Diocese of Switzerland have approached the Church Council and Father Abel Manoukian to convince them to accept the dictates of Vehapar. As both of the latter are bound by decisions that are by definition ‘voted upon’, their approach was obviously not successful. They then chose to create, around Father Mesrop Parsamyan, a new church community by bringing together those attracted by the prospect of a Diocese and the ousting of Father Abel Manoukian. To achieve this, they have deployed an intense campaign to discredit the institutions and structures of our community, while trying to deprive them of legitimacy with the goal of ascribing it to their new “organizations”. We are witnessing here a deliberate scuttling of the harmony and unity of our Armenian community in Switzerland!

 

While the "friends" of Vehapar campaign, the Church Council continues to defend the choices of the community and is working to overcome increasing difficult obstacles to maintain religious services at St. Hagop. To these activities and concerns, which comprise more of a battle than a mere task of management, we cite the added enormous pressures of the countless e-mails and phone calls that Council members have had to deal with. This extremely stressful environment has adversely affected the health and wellbeing of some Council members to the point that they have no longer been able to pursue their stated mandate.

 

Facts and Recent Dates

 

On 18 March 2011, a newsletter is sent informing you of the outcome of the general meeting held on March 6th and its transmission to H. H.  Karekin II.

  

On 20 March 2011, Etchmiadzin notifies the Church Council that at the meeting of the Supreme Council (Kerakuin Khorhurt) on March 17-19, the Holy See of Etchmiadzin has:

  • Confirmed the Diocese of Switzerland
  • Named Father Mesrop Parsamyan the "locum tenens" of the diocese and priest of the Armenian community in Geneva, from April 1, 2011
  • Announced formal notice to Father Abel Manoukian to travel to Etchmiadzin before the 1st of April, 2011.


On 25 March 2011,
the Church Council responds to these decisions by reminding the Holy See of the wishes of the community and the democratic principles underlying our church meetings, which confer to lay ecclesial communities the right to choose their own priest and structure. 
 

On 28 March 2011, the Church Council addresses President Serge Sargsyan with a letter drawing attention to and explaining the divergence of opinion between Holy See of Etchmiadzin and the ecclesial community of Switzerland. This letter has gone unanswered. 

 
On 29 March 2011, the Church Council and representatives of the community hold a meeting with his Excellency Mr. Charles Aznavour at the Embassy of Armenia in order to make him aware of these serious problems. The Ambassador expresses his agreement with the democratic principles underlying our Church and to the firm position of our community. The meeting has not resulted in further action.

 

On 1 April 2011, Etchmiadzin, in response to the letter dated March 25th, writes that the position of our community is unacceptable and violates the rules of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 


On 9 April 2011, Father Mesrop Parsamyan arrives in Geneva where he has been living since, albeit without the support of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland. 

 

On 10 April 2011, the Church Council decides to maintain the doors of the Church closed in order pre-empt the possibility of physical confrontation, as happened in the precedential case in Nice, France. 

 

On 5 May 2011, the Church Council receives a hard copy of the decision of Vehapar to suspend Father Abel Manoukian from the 10th of May, 2011. This translates to a ban on presiding over any kind of religious act. 

 
On 11 May 2011, the Church Council organizes a broad consultation of the community in order to clarify the choices they face; it was decided here that once again, the church would be closed on the following Sunday in order to preserve its sanctity as a place of prayer. It was also decided to form an independent ‘working group’ (commission) to assist the Council in matters of strategy, communication and information based on the expectations of its members.


On 12 May 2011
, the Church Council addresses the Vehapar while in the midst of his travels to France and to South America, requesting a meeting in order to discuss the questions that may be asked of the members of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland in a forthcoming General Assembly setting. To this date, no response has been forthcoming. 

 

On 16 May 2011, Viken Vartzbed, President of the Church Council, resigns from his post effective immediately for reasons mentioned above. As well, Hayguhi Zancanaro and Vatche Markoussian also announce their resignations from the Council on May 29th.

 

On 25 May 2011, the Church Council invites Raffi Garibian and Daniel Papazian to join it. 

 

On 2 June 2011, it is in evidence on the website of Holy See of Etchmiadzin that the defrocking of Der Abel by the Vehapar has taken place on 1 June 2011.  

 

On 17 June 2011, the Church Council addresses a letter to Vehapar to ask him to confirm in writing the information in circulation about the defrocking, as this had heretofore only been readable on the internet.   The letter further expresses on behalf of all faithful members, a sense of immense injustice if this response does not provide sufficient grounds upon which this decision had been based, aside from the already contested invoked justification of ‘disobedience’. 

 

On 25 June 2011, the Church Council receives formal information about the defrocking of Father Abel Manoukian as well as a declaration from H. H.  Karekin recognizing a new parish to the Diocese in Switzerland founded on 16 June 2011 under the name “Parish of the Apostolic Church of Geneva and the Lemanic Region”, while simultaneously ejecting from his jurisdiction the ecclesial assembly of the Armenian community of Switzerland called the “Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland”.

 

In the month of March 2011, the President of the Swiss Confederation paid an official visit to Armenia and attended to protocol with a visit to Etchmiadzin whilst there. The Vehapar took the opportunity to present Father Mesrop Parsamyan in the context of his future functions in Switzerland. Since this announcement, the Church Council was quick to inform President Micheline Calmy-Rey, by letter dated 2 April 2011, about the differences existing between the Armenian community in Switzerland and the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, with a view toward preventing a possible recognition of the official envoy of the Vehapar. By letter dated 21 April 2011 the President of the Confederation assured the Church Council of their position of state-level non-interference in community affairs, whilst urging the parties toward dialogue.

 

General Information

 

As per the traditions and rules of our Church, the communities of the faithful in the Ottoman Empire and in Diaspora have, for centuries, managed their Churches on the basis of democratic principles, to which we remain extremely attached. It is an assembly of laypersons that decides upon its organization, its institutions, the mode of engagement of its priests and of its own financial accounting and management.   It submits to the clergy, for approval, only the decisions that affect religious activity (status, choice of priest, board composition, etc.)

 

The Diocesan structure of Etchmiadzin seeks to implantitself throughout the Diaspora and is promulgated by the personal wish of the Catholicos. It consists of different parishes that benefit each from their own mini-parish(es), elected by paying members and presided over by a priest. The assembly of parishioners also selects on a regular basis its lay representatives at the Assembly of Diocesan Delegates (ADD).   The ADD then selects a Diocesan Council (DC). The length of term for a Council of a Parish is determined by this abovementioned Assembly. The priest is both appointed and dismissed by the bishop. The economic activities of the parish remain under the control of the bishop and the DC.

 

The Catholicos names a Bishop for a Diocese, with the exception of those Dioceses in which the bishop is traditionally elected. In this case, the ADD is elected amongst three candidates proposed by the DC and approved by the Catholicos. The Bishop presides upon all the structure and facets of a Diocese. Only the Catholicos can put in place a cap or ‘stop’ to the activities of a Bishop before the age of 70 years.

 

The ADD is composed of all the priests from parishes and from elected lay persons. This body votes on the statutes that benefit from the force of canonic law after approval by the Catholicos. It decides the financial budget of the parishes in the diocese, and validates the annual reports of activities and finances of the diocese. It elects the national ecclesiological delegates, as well as a supervisory committee consisting of three persons responsible for monitoring the economic and financial activity of the diocese. The diocese pays 4% of its budget to Etchmiadzin.

 

The DC decides the number of representatives at the ADD for each Parish and validates reports of their parishioner activities, minutes of general meetings and elections of parish pastoral councils.

 

In this new organization, parishes are responsible for priests and bishops over whom they bear no decision-making/elective power, neither to choose nor to dismiss!

 

Defrocking a priest is a measure that consists of ousting from a Church a servant whose conduct violates its fundamental values. This is not so much a measure of punishment as it is a precaution to protect the very core of an institution. The charge of disobedience, as applied to Father Abel Manoukian, does not constitute in any instance such a threat to the institution. The defrocking of a priest occurs only in the cases of the gravest violations of canonical/theological law or in the case of heresy, and is an extremely rare measure adopted in Christian churches. If Vehapar seeks to express his displeasure with a person, he has chosen a misguided method in doing so, unless of course the target is and has been our community!

 
 

Conclusions

 

Today, we find that H. H. Karekin II justifies the existence of a Diocese in Switzerland through the promulgation of the Catholicos Vazken I in 1992, but chooses at the same time to deliberately ignore the laws of our church, also approved by the Catholicos Vazken I in 1985.

 

Moreover, H. H. Karekin II, in order to legitimize and justify his unilaterally adopted decisions, invokes new rules formulated in Etchmiadzin in 2001 (yet to be accepted universally) and claims to be the bearer of Christ’s message. He displays a boundless contempt for the perspective and feelings of the faithful members of the Church he leads. 

 

What has happened to the charity, tolerance and compassion taught by Christ?

 

Has he forgotten he was elected as the Catholicos of All Armenians?

 

Has Etchmiadzin become a Church in structure only without content?

 

The division created by Etchmiadzin obliges the ecclesial community in Switzerland to make fundamental choices about its future.   A General Assembly will be convened after the summer break to allow all concerned members to express themselves.

 

With our sincere best wishes

 

The Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland

 
 
P.S.  All information and facts stated herein are based on available documentation. We will happily respond to the extent we can to the eventual questions or comments that you would like to submit to us at the following email address: a.a.church.Switzerland@gmail.com.
 

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15 comments
  1. Funny to See

    Funny to see how many people are suddenly interested in the Armenian Church. Mr. Hratch Manoukian (formerly Abel), from Geneva, is making his private war against Echimiazin and has taken the community as his hostage. This man was defrocked for good. He is not a clergyman. He split the community. The Church is an institution, not a private club. Catholics would not consider criticizing their Pope. But we, Armenians, do not respect our Church leaders and want to pull rights in our own hands. We tried to destroy our nation. Now one fanatic, defrocked priest and his small group of followers (less than 1% of the community) are trying to destroy the structure of our 1,700- year-old Church. Go and sign the petition and be part of the destruction of Armenia and its institutions. Turkey and Azerbaijan will be thankful for your signature.

    P.S. The "Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland" does not exist. 

    1. Mr. Alain, Please Note

      Mr. Alain, please note that there are those within this community who disagree wholeheartedly with your misguided commentary. We are not ‘suddenly’ interested; we have ALWAYS BEEN HERE. This is not about one man, and your ‘blasé’ comment about being ‘defrocked for good’ is simply irresponsible. Nor did Der Abel split the community; we should thank our Holy Vehapar for that one. His institution is suffering a crisis of image like never before, and it is certainly not just here in Switzerland that this is the case; France, Russia, Belgium, the US… shall we go on?

      The Church is EXACTLY what you say it is: an institution. It is not a private club for one man and his ‘army of faithfuls’ to rule as he pleases. And luckily, our institution was founded on participatory principles more enlightened than that of the Vatican.

      We are not destroying our nation by standing up and saying that there is an abuse of power, when this is the case. Your “less than 1% of the community” translated to 98% of the vote of the last Assembly in Geneva; how does that figure, in your opinion? We are doing everything that we can to ensure that our 1,700-year- old Church and its history will continue to be revered and honored, and serve by the faithful whose responsibility is to PROTECT it from the “Cult of Personality” that is HH Karekin II.

      What is the alternative? Sit quietly, kiss the ring, and put the man on a pedestal? We see this happening in Armenia, and it is NOT doing our nation any good on the world stage.

      P.S. If the “Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland” does not exist, who have our friendly ‘rulers’ in Echmiadzin been addressing their letters all these years? A silly comment, sir.

    2. President of No Church

      Wake Up! You claim to have a diocese in Switzerland and you do not even have a church, nor srpazan. How stupid do you think we, the members, of the community are? How dare you criticize our faithfulness, without knowing any one of us. You have chosen to be the slave of Echmiadzin; that’s your problem. We have honored our Church many more years than you have been in Switzerland. How dare you pretend to be the spokesman for Echmiadzin?

      Who are you? You and your friends have become the slaves of Echmiadzin and are being manipulated, and you do not wish to realize it. Wake up and have a look at the Armenian Apostolic Church of Nice, France– and stop your false accusations of our Father Abel, who for 17 years, showed compassion and care and worked well.

      You are to be pitied. You better get realistic soon and get ready to pay for the diocese you claim to have established (with funding from you and your friends’ pockets). If all goes well, you will be joining your associates/friends who are incarcerated/jailed in Nice–with the activities you plan to bring to Switzerland (just as they brought to France). And we shall be cheering your cause.

      Keep up the good work.

  2. For The Record

    Many people within our community are extremely concerned with the situation we are in and the continuing, divisive and controversial acts and remarks being made by delegitimizing, discrediting and personifying our situation. One such example is the personal attacks being made against Fr. Abel Manoukian–a capable, qualified (PhD in Theology) ordained priest–who has served our community in Switzerland since 1995. Fr. Abel has dedicated his life to the Armenian Apostolic Church since the age of 12, and had been accepted, respected and blessed by various Catholicoses in Echmiadzin until June 2011. We at least owe our gratitude and respect for the sacrifices he and his family have made to our nation in various communities. 

    The truth of the matter is that a priest in Switzerland did NOT create the situation we are in. It is the unilateral, controversial (at best), and universally unaccepted policies and actions (that speak better than words) imposed on our communities (not just Switzerland) by a leadership in Echmiadzin who speaks in the name of our nation, our Church and Christ. 

    The issue in Switzerland is not an isolated case, but a global one. We know this as a fact since we are in contact with various churches and ecclesial communities in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. There is a silent majority who is very concerned, and believes that there is a sense of injustice being done against a priest, a community and a nation as a whole. 
     
    We are not a Catholic Church in structure! Our Church has always been a People (of God) Church (“Zhoghovrtavar”) with clear separation of duties between spiritual and non-spiritual (legal, structural, financial, administrative) functions. Even with its hierarchical structure, the Catholic Church or the Pope rarely and hardly “defrocks”, makes public attacks, personifies, and delegitimizes its priests or councils. The Catholic Church has also “adopted” flexible policies adapted towards different communities to accommodate local cultures and circumstances (i.e., different approaches in Latin America vs. Eastern Europe vs. France).
     
    The Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland has been the only accepted and legally existing institution in Switzerland since 1985 (blessed by HH Vazken I). Our church (building) in Switzerland, based in Troinex, was established before that date and has functioned under successive Church Councils elected by General Assemblies (and blessed by Echmiadzin) serving our small community which choose its priests. Our Church Council still “exists” and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. 
     
    Finally, the remarks being made by Mr. Alain represent a small minority within our communities who prefer to restructure our Church into a hierarchical, Vatican-style institution, with legal and financial controls being transferred from Diaspora communities to Echmiadzin under one ruler, the Catholicos and away from the very democratic traditions that has distinguished our Apostolic Church from other Churches since the 5th century. This Church Council, as a representative voice of our General Assembly, is categorically opposed to the "forceful imposition of such restructuring” without the full disclosure, review, debate, voting and acceptance by vast majority of our ecclesiastic community.
     
    1. Justifiable Concern

      Technically, Vehapar has set a precedent of a more destructive practice than simply undermining the Armenian community of Switzerland of its democratic (“Zhoghovrtavar”) rights.

      The Vehapar would have undermined the “Zhoghovrtavar” practice of the community had he retained Father Abel as a priest, but forbade him from assuming the function he was invited by the laity to assume. It is our time-honored tradition that the clergy lead by the consent of the faithful. We have recourse to remedy a wrong in the next level of the Catholicosate governance of the Church. The Primate is elected for a certain term, but the Catholicos is elected for lifetime.

      However, Vehapar seems to have resorted to a more sinister practice, imposing his will by defrocking an educated and dedicated servant of the Church, on the pretext of insubordination, for not reporting to Vehapar at the latter’s request. Frankly speaking, I am not sure if you have any recourse, other than make the best of the situation, especially if President Serzh Sarksyan and his government are in cohoots with Vehapar and thus the Echmiadzin leadership.

    2. Reply to Non-existing “ArACS”

      As you well know, there is no Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland recognized by any one.

      There are a handful of self-appointed, underground workers. Today it is easy to publish your wishful thinking thanks to the Internet, making people believe you are supported by the community of your country. So far, your organization has been unable to prove any of its arguments.

      Where is the proof of your allegation that Echimiadzin wants to take control of the finances of the community?

      You have no full disclosure? I can tell you why: you are teller of tales. You fake your statistics in your favor.

      The fact is that fewer than 200 people in Switzerland signed the petition, less than 5% of your community. If this is a majority, I will go back to school.

      Bottom line: you are selfish. You are looking propagandize something that is part of the past. 

      Good luck in the future,

      1. Archives are the Basis of Our Consideration

        Hi Alain,
         
        Your approaches to the subject are superficial.
         
        You have no documents to back your arguments. You only defend Karekin II because he is the Gatoghigos.
         
        This conflict is emanating from Viken Vartabed. You know the Armenian expression: "Khénte kar me klorétz posin metch, 10 khélatsi tchegertsn tours hanel."
         
        1) Did you know that the Swiss community has 26,000 members? On this basis, Viken Vartabed got his emancipation from Paris. Documents should exist in Echmiadzin.
         
        2) Did you know that Viken Vartabed has produced a medical report that he is mentally ill and that he will be absent from his duties to his community? Documents exist.
         
        3) Did you know that during the preparation of his doctoral thesis, he was away for many months from his duties as pastor of his community?
         
        4) Did you know that for the election of the future Gatoghigos (Karekin II) he was again absent, for many months, from his duties to the community?
         
        5) Did you know that because of his refusal to visit us (Baden), to celebrate Sourp Badarak, we wrote to Paris, to Kud Nakkachian and had priests from Lyon, to celebrate Sourp Badaraks?
         
        6) Did you know that Viken Vartabed was dismissed from his duties in Switzerland before Apel Kahana was engaged?
         
        7) Did you know that today’s conflict is not between Apel Kahana and Gatoghigos Karekin II? It is between the Swiss Armenian community and Karekin II. We must not refer to him in our discussions.
         
        8) Did you know that the NE-JURA Community, according to the arrangement, is together with Geneva-Vaud and not within the Swiss German community? This is clearly indicated in the Ganonakir, at the time of Viken Vartabed.
         
        9) Did you know that the whole Swiss Armenian community is under the Geneva Church Council? This is clearly indicated in the Ganonakir, at the time of Viken Vartabed. It was accepted from the top.
         
        10) Did you know that the community priest or Vartabed is to be elected and approved by the church council? This is clearly indicated in all Church Ganonakirs, including NE-JURA Ganonakir.
         
        11) Did you know that, in 1990, a respected member of the Geneva Church Council, Mr. Nazaret Sirmakesh, resigned because of Viken Vartabed?
         
        Conclusion: To consider the disorder created in the Swiss Armenian community as  fait accompli is not acceptable. It is illegal, not honorable. It’s more dishonorable when Karekin II is ready for war against the Swiss Armenian community to defend illegality.
         
        I believe that If there is vote in Armenia and in Diaspora, 90% will request the resignation of Karekin II, as they are demonstrating against the President of Armenia for his resignation. It is not them to change the country; it is for the president to leave the country, similarly the Karekin II, to change his confession, to Catholicism. There he will have the authority as he understands, and not the people to change their confession.
         
        Concerning the estimated Swiss voters against Karekin II, they represent the elite with real understanding of the history, documentation and reality within the Swiss Armenian community. The rest, which you consider the majority, are mostly Turkish- speaking members. They do not know what’s going on. They do not have computers to get information on the Internet.
         
        I remember, the honourable Father Shellefian. To get great number of votes during the church council elections in Geneva, he transported hundreds of people from Kreuzlingen by bus, to vote according to his selected list. And these people had not even paid church membership fees. I do not think you would join these people to vote without understanding. And these are the people you consider the majority. If they get instructions of the truth, then they will be knowledgeable enough to vote for your convictions, or vote against.
         
        A question: How many people in the north are paying or want to pay their membership (antamavdjar) to the church? Perhaps the reality is very sad.
  3. Alain’s Reply

    I did not know that I am slave or a spokesman of Echmiadzin. But what I know is that opposing Echmiadzin puts someone’s membership in the Armenian Apostolic Church in question .

    Per your letter posted below, HH the Catholicos of all Armenians does not recognize your parish. Therefore, your actions in the name of the Armenian Apostolic Church are illegal actions and. None of the followers is a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church. You may establish the "Armenian Evangelic Church" or something else.
    Once in a while, reformations occur in Churches, but since the Middle Ages, none of them have found enough followers to survive its leader. Mr. Hratch Manoukian will be glad to serve you as he will not find any other job.

    Some responses to your comments:

    1–You say 98% of followers are for Hratch Manoukian.
    How many people does the Swiss-Armenian community have? 5,000 or so? Where are the 4,800 signatures from Switzerland.

    2– Hratch Manoukian PhD.
    No one has criticized his theoretical knowledge, but he seems unable to abide by his oath. This is a business between him and his ‘boss’.

    3–Pay for diocese.
    Do you have any proof for what you are saying? If you do, post it.

    4–Finance.
    Where and when did Echmiadzin take over the control of finances of the church in Geneva (date & proof please).

    5– The community chooses its priest.
    It must be your imagination since priests are proposed by Echmiadzin.

    6– My friends in jail.
    You know more than I do. Please let me know;

    7– Democracy.
    If Hratch Manoukian and you believed in democracy you would have followed the democratic rules of your bylaws. Is it democratic to exclude believers from entering your church? Is it democratic to hand-select your members? These are the attributes of a non-denominational church.

    8– ‘Your church building’.
    The "Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland" has no church building. Please post the names of the people of the the "Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland" to start with democracy.

    Note, I am ready to answer any of your questions or comments.
    Keeping in touch.

    Alain

    1. My Remarks to Alain:

      Dear Alain,
       
      The discussion you have with Vahé is very superficial. During our discussions we must not forget the history of why we have reached to this hot point–the point of no return. We always have to look to the head of the burning cord. And the burning cord started on the ambitions and lies of Viken Vartabed.
       
      A– Ambitions of Viken Vartabed:
      To be liberated and independent of Paris and be free in his movements, he created his intelligent lies.
       
      B–Intelligent Lies of Viken Vartabed: 
      To get free from Paris, Viken represented the Armenian community of Switzerland to Vazken Gatoghigos as having 25,000 members. Everybody knows that the actual figure is no more than 5,000. The Gatoghigos would believe the numbers because they were presented by Viken Vartabed of Switzerland.
       
      C- Once Viken Vartabed got his independance from Paris, he was travelling to unknown destinations for pleasure or business, without informing the Geneva Church Council. When asked about his absences, he said Vazken Gatoghigos was sending him to this and that destinations, paid by Echmiadzin.
       
      From 1980 to 1985, we had our church council in Baden region. We organized  Sourp Badaraks and asked Viken for celebration these Badaraks, but either refused or he was unavailable and no one from the Geneva Church Council could say where he was. We complained to the Archbishop of Paris regarding Viken’s negligance and we asked Paris to send us a priest for our Badaraks. I still have a copy of one of our letters to Paris, regarding our complaints.
       
      D–Other details will be more shocking, which is common to all Gousagrons.
       
      But I will try to give short answers to your each point below:
       
      Alain: I did not know that I am slave or a spokesman of Echmiadzin. But what I know is that opposing Echmiadzin puts someone’s membership in the Armenian Apostolic Church in question .
       
      Simon: No one is the slave of this or that, but he can defend the thesis of this or that. The true members of the Church who elected the Gatoghigos can also condemn him for his illegal actions. Illegal actions mean that he does not respect the democratic laws of the Armenian Church.
      The Baptist members of the Armenian. Appostolic Church are the defenders of the Armenian Appostolic Church.
      Alain: Per your letter posted below, HH, the Catholicos of all Armenians, does not recognize your parish. Therefore, your actions in the name of the Armenian Apostolic Church are illegal actions and. none of the followers is a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church. You may establish the "Armenian Evangelic Church" or something else.
       
      Simon: The Gatoghigos can not dismiss any of the member of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The communities represent the nation. And the nation chooses the Gatoghigos.
      And the Diaspora Armenians are truer Christian/believers than Karekin II and his luxurious and armed archbishops. All the new constructions of churches in Armenia are due to Diaspora benevolence.
       
      Alain: Once in a while, reformations occur in Churches, but since the Middle Ages, none of them have found enough followers to survive its leader. Mr. Hratch Manoukian will be glad to serve you as he will not find any other job.
       
      Simon: I believe, Hratch/Appel Manukian was born, baptized and dedicated to the Armenian Apostolic Church much before Karekin II, who was born, perhaps not baptized at the time, grew up under Soviet Chekist regime and discipline, without having Christian feelings. To be dedicated from childhood and to join the Church to serve his people is not like looking for job. We can think that for Karekin II, being Gatoghigos, is a business. Fifty years from now, or even before, we shall learn his stories, like Yighishé Derderyan of Jerusalem, and the previous Archbishop of Paris.
       
      Alain: Some responses to your comments:
      1–You say 98% of followers are for Hratch Manoukian.
      How many people does the Swiss-Armenian community have? 5,000 or so? Where are the 4,800 signatures from Switzerland?
       
      Simon: How many people from the Armenian Community of Swiss German Part, perhaps including yourself and all our friends, did know about the wrong figures (lies) provided by Viken to Vazken Gatoghigos to judge and accept the difference? Perhaps none of them. Instead, many people know that from Baden, Viken Vartabed neglected our requests to celebrate Sourp Badarak at Baden, and we were obliged to invite a priest from Lyon.
       
      Alain: 2– Hratch Manoukian PhD.
      No one has criticized his theoretical knowledge, but he seems unable to abide by his oath. This is a business between him and his ‘boss’
       
      Simon: The PhD in free Europe is getting the virtue of understanding God.
       
      Alain: 3–Pay for diocese.
      Do you have any proof for what you are saying? If you do, post it.
       
      Simon: The proof we have for investigation is the history of our community. Without Viken Vartabed we had a normal and peaceful community. If there was disagreement between our two priests, this did not disturb anybody. They were 300 km away, and no member of the north travelled to Sourp Hagop Church in Geneva to attend Sourp Badarak, and no member from the south travelled 300 km to serve Sourp Badaraks in the north. This period was peacefull. We can proudly say, Karekin II disturbed and disorganized the community’s peaceful life.
      Alain: 4–Finance.
      Where and when did Echmiadzin take over the control of finances of the church in Geneva (date & proof please).
      Simon: This will be their immediate next step. We know the case of Melkonian Educational Institute in Cyprus. Once the Armenian authorities and Echmiadzin could dominate the AGBU leadership, they closed the school with the intention to sell the property for $100 million. All petitions to Echmiadzin and the Armenian Government remained unanswered. This will be repeated in Switzerland.
       
      Alain: 5– The community chooses its priest.
      It must be your imagination since priests are proposed by Echmiadzin.
      Simon: The community can reject any proposed priest. And if the community does not want the change, and if the priestr does not want to move, then changes must not happen.
       
      Alain: 6– My friends in jail.
      You know more than I do. Please let me know;
      Simon: I do not know about whom you refer. Perhaps this does not interest us.
       
      Alain: 7– Democracy.
      If Hratch Manoukian and you believed in democracy you would have followed the democratic rules of your bylaws. Is it democratic to exclude believers from entering your church? Is it democratic to hand-select your members? These are the attributes of a non-denominational church.
       
      Simon: Democracy, specially in Europe, is respected, in our churches. Surely there are no exclusions, except Viken Vartabed for reasons we know and Mesrop Vartabed.  If the latter comes to announce himself as the owner of the community and the church, he can not come under this title until an agreement is made with the Swiss Diaspora Community and Geneva.
       
      Alain: 8– ‘Your church building’.
      The "Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland" has no church building. Please post the names of the people of the "Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland" to start with democracy.
      Simon: Geneva has the answer.
       
      Alain: Note, I am ready to answer any of your questions or comments.
      Keeping in touch.
      Alain
       
      Simon: The cord is burning. We have to discuss a long time on how to extinguish it. And this is case is also in France and Belgium and may expand, if not solved.
       
      I said elswhere, we do not want this Gatoghigos, and if we can not change, then we have to give life to the third–Gatoghigosate of Aghtamar for western Armenians. It was once an active Gatoghigosoutioun.
       
      1. Anarchists and the Law

        Hi Simon,

        Viken Vartabed was front man while Vahe Gabrache the person behind.

        Every church leader is free to decide where to establish his organization, just like every foreign ministry is free where to establish an embassy. Our Church had no external structure since this was not possible during the Soviet era. With the organization of a hierarchy in Switzerland, Hratch Manoukian would have been under superior control. He refused to accept this reality. Yet in parts of Switzerland other priests and parishes are active but the self-declared Church Council of ArACS (Armenian Apostolic Church of Switzerland) proclaims itself still to be responsible for all of Switzerland. There is no such legal entity, let alone a recognized oned. The bylaws of the board of the old parish spell that they are under the control of Echmiadzin.

        These anarchists are unwilling to obey the law. My previous comments are in response to a number of comments published in this section.

        1. Dissent but Not Anarchism

          Alain,

          I do not believe it is appropriate that you call the dissenters to the unfolding events in Switzerland as anarchists and hence, by implication, label their dissent as anarchism. Your choice of words gives the impression that a certain segment of the community rather silence dissent than to strive towards some sort of a resolution, having given some credence to the good intentions of the dissenters. 

        2. Thoughts on the Gatoghigos

          Hi Alain,
          The authority of Gatoghigos does not extend beyond being a symbol of spiritual authority of the Armenian Apostolic Church, be it Echmidzin or the Cilician See.
          The Armenian Diaspora had created its infrastructure in the past 90 years, with its churches, schools, cultural unions, sporting and social organizations (AGBU, Gulbenkian, etc.), in addition political organizations. Neither Echmidzin nor the Armenian state had any role in the creation of these. The Armenian Diaspora was better organized than the Armenian state was under Soviet rule. We now find village schools, from the Sovier era, are in miserable condition, and are being restored through Diaspora assistance.
          Diaspora Armenians also helped Echmiadzin during the past 90 years, and do so today.
          The function of Gatoghigos is limited to sending Gontags during Christian high  celebrations, and blessing the faithful.
          The actual Gatoghigos, Karekin II, with his destructive actions of dismantling and  disorganizing this Diaspora infrastructure is unacceptable and his actions do not conform to the Armenian tradition, and is therefore rejected.
          The right way is for the Gatoghigos to cooperate with the Diaspora, according to the requests, if any, of Diaspora communities. Recommendations from the Gatoghigos are welcomed, but it’s up to the communities to approve.
          Alain, you mention the case of ambassadors. Ambassadors are not to organize or disorganize Diaspora communities. They assist them, if required.
          If Echmiadzin wants to create its embassy for representation for the “Diyézeragan Joghovnerou”, then it will be independent of the community. This can not be a reason to disorganize community life.
          Re your reference to Vahé Gabrache. He is an honorable Armenian, as you are, but as a Roman Catholic, he is not involved in the Armenian Appostolic Church Council of Geneve. We admire and appreciate your creative participation in our eclesiastic comunity. We thank you for this.
          Our decision is clear. We reject the destructive actions of Karekin II. 
          1. For Clarification

            I do not accuse anyone of having done anything with the exception of those who have abused their position or function to achieve acceptance of their own personal interests. However, as Christian, I am obliged to forgive them. Surprisingly enough, it includes Hratch Manoukian. I respect anyone’s opinion and Mr. V. Gabrache has my respect, as you do.

            Simply, my opinion may differ. As part of the Armenian Apostolic Church, I have no other choice than to accept the authority of Echimiadzin. It is not a question of ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ a person when one is part of an institution. The bylaws of the committee of the Church stipulate acceptance of the authority of Echimiadzin; also for the election of priests. According to these bylaws in force, the assembly of a church has not more than consultative characteristic. Anyone is free to break the bylaws or the legislation, but it is a dead end.

            From the legal side to the emotional side: None in this blog was able to prove any of their arguments against Echimiadzin. Some of you may not be in agreement with His Holiness, but as I wrote earlier today, if you do not like the decisions of a country’s leader do you give back your citizenship? Use the pre-defined ways to suggest reforms. Polemic and misinformation are not the appropriate tools for it.

            Best,

            Alain 

  4. Thanking Church

    I would like to thank the Armenian Apostolic Church Council of Switzerland for setting the score straight with its comprehensive explanation of the events leading to the dilemma our community is facing.

    From what I have read, I understand that our ecclesiastic community has never officially accepted a diocese, contrary to the claims of many. If it had accepted a diocese then we should have had a Srpazan and by law–two things that are missing.

    Whose fault is it?

    We have crucified Hayr Abel. Why not continue to bash him until he collapses, since we are “good, loving" Christians? Sorry, I forgot, this is not about Christianity and the teachings of Jesus; this is about preserving and obeying the  “Institution” represented by Vehapar Hayr. 

    Those who don’t agree with the unfair and unjust decision of defrocking of Father Abel, who by the way, has served his community with dignity, faith and devotion, are called enemies of the Armenian nation. And apparently they are 1% of the community who all of a sudden are interested in the Church. I wonder what Alain is calling the other 99%: devout Christians or soldiers/employees of a famous watchmaker, who was hardly ever seen in church, and now  to preserve his interests and relations in Armenia or under the pressure of some devout oligarchs, is getting involved in Church matters and dividing the community. 

     

    For the Armenian people the enemy has always been personal self-interest; that’s why we have never been able to continue on the path of building a Greater Armenia. Now that our small nation is independent, look at what is happening: some remain true to their genetic code of self-service are of hogging the country. And instead of putting order in his own backyard, the Vehapar Hayr is being instrumental in dividing his faithful with unjust and biased decisions.

    1. Reply to Aniko and Others

      Unfortunately, I have to agree with your statement: "For the Armenian people the enemy has always been personal self-interest; that’s why we have never been able to continue on the path of building a Greater Armenia."

      Once and for all, I am not on any side. The Church is an institution and I am a supporter of it. In reply to another post re anarchists being people who reject any authority, I may ask what else you ‘d call people rejecting Church authority and the bylaws of their church community while claiming to be members? What are we to do? Open the church only to ‘insiders’? Keep the church closed to representatives of Echmiadzin? Reject any dialogue with Echmiadzin and its representatives? Hinder the priest from giving sacraments? Try to harm everyone seeking dialogue and is ready for a solution?

      After my request to readers to post proof backing their ArACS arguments, no one has since their arguments are all hot air. Do you not understand that all this is a political game of a few people? If, let’s say, 100 signed from Geneva’s community of 1,000, that would be 10% or if 1,000 signed of the 13-million Armenians world wide. As well, we do not take into account that some signed under Geneva but are not found in any register. What gibberish.

      Praying for all.

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