Response to E. Azadian’s ‘Anarchy in the Hierarchy’

 Rev. Dr.  V. Nerses Nersessian, London UK, 17 September 2013

I have read Mr. Azadian’s above inappropriately titled article. The author has injected poisonous nonsense into the debate about the governance of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church by circumventing all the serious issues and resorting to fatally-flawed clichés. In a stampede to retrieve the situation, Mr. Azadian has pushed all the wrong and worn out arguments – the Genocide, ‘Cold War’ sentiments, and the Antelias-Etchmiadzin crisis.

The reason why the Armenian people have raised their voices is because the only unifying institution based on moral foundations is being governed by the Catholicos, and not  by the Episcopal Synod according to the long held canons of the church. The hierarchy of the Church is not the soul of the Armenian people. The soul of the Armenian nation is its Church, Holy, Apostolic and Orthodox, upon which the hierarchies of Holy Etchmiadzin, Cilicia/Antelias, Jerusalem and Constantinople/Istanbul were founded on to protect and preserve "without blemish in spiritual love and one accord".

 Rev. Dr.  V. Nerses Nersessian, London UK, 17 September 2013

I have read Mr. Azadian’s above inappropriately titled article. The author has injected poisonous nonsense into the debate about the governance of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church by circumventing all the serious issues and resorting to fatally-flawed clichés. In a stampede to retrieve the situation, Mr. Azadian has pushed all the wrong and worn out arguments – the Genocide, ‘Cold War’ sentiments, and the Antelias-Etchmiadzin crisis.

The reason why the Armenian people have raised their voices is because the only unifying institution based on moral foundations is being governed by the Catholicos, and not  by the Episcopal Synod according to the long held canons of the church. The hierarchy of the Church is not the soul of the Armenian people. The soul of the Armenian nation is its Church, Holy, Apostolic and Orthodox, upon which the hierarchies of Holy Etchmiadzin, Cilicia/Antelias, Jerusalem and Constantinople/Istanbul were founded on to protect and preserve "without blemish in spiritual love and one accord".

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem and its Brotherhood have been a principal source of our faith for nearly 1,500 years. Over the centuries, countless Armenians have made pilgrimages to the Holy City, prayed and renewed their Christian vows on the shrine of St James, Brother of Our Lord. During the most critical  times in the history of our Church the noble clergy (Patriarchs Yeghishe Turian, Torkom Koushagian, Guregh Israelian) have kept the flame of St. Gregory’s lantern alight.

When the late locum tenens of the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin, the Patriarch of Jerusalem Torkom Manoogian passed away, the Catholicos did not attend his funeral. Failure to attend was disrespectful to the members of the Jerusalem Brotherhood, who hold high and responsible positions in the west.  He also failed to attend the enthronement of Nourhan Manougian the present Patriarch of Jerusalem. The latter needs the visible support of Holy Etchmiadzin. His absence also diminished the status of the Patriarchate in the eyes of the hostile Israeli government.

His Grace Archbishop Mesrop Moutafian, Patriarch of Constantinople succumbed to his present state due to his spending several years in prison for his stance against the Turkish government, and not because of being a “political tool in the hands of" that government as Azadian alleges. Likewise, the antagonism of the Israeli government toward the Patriarch of Jerusalem arises from the courageous stance he has taken on the question of the Armenian Genocide.

There is no tradition of a newly- elected Patriarch of Jerusalem making a pilgrimage to Holy Etchmiadzin to renew his vows at the throne of St Gregory, as Mr. Azadian suggests. The Patriarch takes and renews his vows at the shrine of the Apostle St. James, Brother of Our Lord.

No serious observer believes that the survival of an individual is much more important than the integrity of our Church, the oldest institution of the Armenian nation. The cavalier approach of Karekin II is unraveling and the conspiracy theories expounded by Mr. Azadian to defend the Catholicos are disingenuous. There is obvious cronyism on the part of Mr. Azadian, a lifelong beneficiary of the organization he represents who defends his patron and ally rather than heed the cry of the people, who for the first time, after 75 years, have come together in defense of their Mother Church.

Political conformity has for long been the cause of ill-health for the Armenian Church. Even before the Russian Revolution, the Church and the State in Armenia existed in a sort of unified harmony, which was not always pleasing to the church. After the Revolution, the Church fell silent. During the time of repression and extreme persecution nobody expressed political views. To start to think politically, and to speak of politics from within the Church, will require a long and deep period of learning. The Church cannot belong to one party or another.  It must be the voice of conscience, permeated with the light of God. Ideally, the Church must be in a position to speak for every party, for every point of view, to say, 'this is worthy of Man and God, and this is not worthy of Man and God’.

It is not the Catholicos who imparts prestige and authority to the Catholicosate. But the Catholicosate, with its 1,700 years of heritage and 131 Catholicoi, whose witness has been tested by sweat and blood that imparts authority and prestige to the Holy See. It is the sacred oath of every new Catholicos to uphold and enrich that heritage.

Rev. Dr.  V. Nerses Nersessian
[email protected]

8 comments
  1. Response to Azadian’s Letter

    Dr. and Rev. Nerses Nersessian should be congratulated for his informative response and for bringing the truth and reality to the forefront. As for the catholicos in Armenia, he lacks vision and political etiquette. The time has come for him to resign before irreversible damage is done all over the Diaspora and the few Armenians remaining are assimilated into foreign cultures and religions.

  2. Catholicos KII

    Mr. Azadian took his time to respond to the accusations leveled at his friend KII. And when he wrote his rebuttal to the long list of catholicos' offenses, it was anti-climatic. He conveniently by-passed the accusations and talked about the Church conflicts of the '50s. In other words, if one criticizes the deplorable man in Etchmiadzin, one must be Tashnag or an agent of Tashnags. What a nice Catch-22! KII can get away with murder, but if he is accused, it's the accuser's motives that become the rebuttal. Nice job, Rev. Dr. Nersessian.

  3. In Full Agreement

    I am in full agreement with all the serious points made by Rev. Dr.  V. Nerses Nersessian, in response to Edmond Azadian's "Anarchy in the Hierarchy".

    Mr. Azadian's article is short-sighted, to put it mildly, and misses the fundamental point about Catholicos Karekin.

    "The only unifying institution, based on moral foundations, is being governed by Catholicos Karekin II, and not  by the Episcopal Synod, according to the long-held canons of the Church. The hierarchy of the Church is not the soul of the Armenian people. The soul of the Armenian nation is its Church, Holy, Apostolic and Orthodox, upon which the hierarchies of Holy Etchmiadzin, Cilicia/Antelias, Jerusalem and Constantinople/Istanbul were founded, to protect and preserve 'without blemish in spiritual love and one accord'."

    Karekin II has lost all respect. He commands no trust in the Armenian nation. I don't want to spell out all his sins as the list is so long.

    He hasn't got an ounce of spiritual morality left in him. He is just an oligarch put there by certain influential Diaspora individuals. The latter have done disservice to our nation by pushing him to that position through methods which were not clean.

    He has ruined what the Church should stand for. It's now all about business and nothing but business. He and his inner circle of bishops are all involved in all types of money-spinning schemes for their personal wealth. One of his bishops drives a Bentley… not to mention Karekin II's children.

    People are sick and tired of seeing him, let alone hear him. The sooner he is defrocked the better for the health of our Church.

    1. Bravo to Courageous truth-tellers

      I agree wholeheartedly with the comments, and say "bravo" to those criticizing Mr. Azadian's article. It was inappropriate. It also continues to pander to those who are bent on defending a catholicos who has shown himself to be self-serving and greedy, siphoning off millions of dollars from the dioceses in America and elsewhere. Benefactors everywhere are handing over their money to endear themselves to the "big man", while their own dioceses everywhere struggle along and our own faithful stray.

      The primates are the facilitators of all this, partly fearing retribution and the loss of their primacies, if they don't toe the line. We are losing–or have lost–our beloved Church. The late beloved Jerusalem Patriarch Torkom was left to fend for himself under difficult circumstances for years, and I fear the newly-elected, also courageous Patriarch Nourhan and the Jerusalem Brotherhood will not receive the financial and moral support so necessary and vital to Jerusalem, while the catholicos swims in millions of dollars. Wake up everyone!

  4. Backlash

    As I congratulate Der Hyre Nersessian for his courage, I cannot help but be concerned in his wellbeing regarding a backlash from a Catholicos who was instrumental in the election and installation of the current Armenian Bishop of Great Britain.

  5. Informative Article

    Rev. Dr. Nersessian, this is a very informative article. Any person doing something wrong has to pay for it sooner or later.

  6. To Judge or Not to Judge

    A question to Rev. Dr. Nersessian: Biblically speaking, what are the jurisdictions of judging an ordained clergy? Every clergyman has shortcomings; it doesn’t matter to what extent. I am not here to justify any of those personal failures. However, what are the appropriate parameters for making them accountable for their conduct? Let me put the words in laymen’s terms: if a clergyman deviates from the essential doctrines but keeps a good personal conduct, while another clergy teaches the essential doctrines and may have shortcomings in his personal life, what is the position of the Church with the above two cases?

    Deviation from essential doctrines can mean subscribing to ideas and affiliation of a clergyman to organizations that contradict the essential doctrines of Christianity. Membership to any humanistic organization that questions Christian beliefs is a cardinal sin, likewise membership to revolutionary movements that promote violence is unchristian. Since our Church does not consider anyone infallible, what does an individual like me do if he finds himself helpless and alone?

    Respectfully,
    Hagop

  7. Armenian Church

    This is the first time that the Church and its leaders are being openly discussed in the open media.
    Is this a sign that we are being more democratic and are shedding our old "a la Turka" ways or that the opposition is smarter, sincere and, I may add, BRAVE?

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