Keghart.org Editorial, 31 August 2021
An alarming news was leaked few weeks ago about the secret and illegal transaction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem . This new scandal involves the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Jerusalem Archbishop Nourhan Manougian and the Director of the Real Estate department of the Patriarchate Fr. Baret Yeretsian.
The story started in 2019 when rumors circulated concerning a real estate deal between the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Municipality according to which part of the Armenian Quarter would be rented out to the Municipality for 5 years. In March 2020 Patriarch Manougian and Fr. Yeretsian signed a 10-year contract with the Jerusalem Municipality giving away the ‘Goveroun Bardez’ area located in the historical Armenian Quarter to be used as a parking lot for Jews heading to the Western Wall in the Old City. This new parking lot was officially opened in May 2021.
In July 2021, a new contract was signed between the Armenian Patriarchate and an Australian businessman called Dany Rubinstein according to which ‘Goveroun Bardez’ which is the entire southwestern section of the Armenian Quarter would be leased for 99 years to that businessman. The plan is to construct a hotel on that land within the next 5 years giving in return a very small percentage of the profits to the Armenian Patriarchate.
According to verified sources from the Holy Land, the Patriarch and Fr. Yeretsian negotiated and finalized the deal without the consent of the Synod (Սինոդ). The Synod was not convened for the past 3 years and did not vote for this deal, bluntly bypassing legal and jurisdictional procedures and laws that govern the Patriarchate.
Patriarch Manougian seems to be under the misapprehension that Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem belongs to him, and that he can do anything on matters related to the status of that oldest and most sacred Armenian Diaspora land. For his own good, he should be disabused of that false notion. He is the 97th steward of the Armenian real estate of that Holy Land, a temporary mandate entrusted to him by the Armenian Apostolic Church and its community in the City of Jerusalem. In fact, the Armenian Quarter and other “Patriarchate-owned” real estate don’t even belong to the Armenian Church or to the St. James Brotherhood. They are the possessions of the Armenian nation. Every last inch of Holy Land Armenian property was purchased through the donations of Armenian pilgrims, nobility, kings, and charitable organizations over a millennium. Twice in recent centuries, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem was bankrupt and was close to losing all its real estate. It was rescued by Armenian merchants and regular Armenian patriots.
Every inch of the Holy Land falls under strict local and international laws hence no one has the right to split up that one entity into different trading parts. The lawless Patriarch should convene the St. James Brotherhood’s Synod which, according to reliable sources, would reject the illegal lease signed by the Patriarch along with his right-hand man Rev. Baret Yeretsian, and under duress by Archbishop Sevan Gharibian.
* An enlarged map of the Armenian Quarter in relation to the rest of the OLD City may be viewed at ԵՐՈՒՍԱՂԷՄ. ՆՈՐ ՄՏԱՀՈԳՈՒԹԻՒՆ ՄԸՆ ԱԼ