Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin – 10/6/17
On June 6, under the presidency of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; the 6th Armenian Church Representative Assembly commenced a four day meeting in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. The meeting is being attended by Bishops of the Mother See and the Hierarchal Sees; Primates of the Dioceses of Armenia and Diaspora; Locum Tenens; Pontifical Delegations; members of the Supreme Spiritual Council; elected clergy and lay representatives from the Hierarchal Sees, Pontifical Delegations and Dioceses around the world.
Led by the Catholicos of All Armenians, the 150 delegates attended the Sunrise Service in the Mother Cathedral prior to the meeting.
The 6th Armenian Church Representative Assembly was opened with the Lord’s Prayer in the Events Auditorium of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary. His Eminence Archbishop Yeznik Petrosyan, a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council and Executive Secretary of the Bible Society of Armenia gave opening remarks, following which he invited His Holiness Karekin II to convey his blessings and message to the participants.
Following the Pontifical message, His Eminence Archbishop Karekin Bekchian, Locum Tenens of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, made remarks. The Locum Tenens expressed his joy on the occasion of convening of the Church Representative Assembly, which is aimed at regulating and benefitting the church life and efficiency of the Church mission. He also reflected on the progress and achievements by the church over the recent years.
The official opening of the Assembly was followed by nomination and election of officers and committees. The Assembly elected Archbishop Khajag Barsamian (Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America) and Mr. Levon Sargsyan (Araratian Pontifical Diocese), to serve as Co-Chairman, and Bishop Abraham Mkrtchyan (Diocese of Vayots Dzor) and Dr. Varoujan Altebarmakyan (US Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America) to serve as Vice-Co-Chairman.
During the first session the election of the secretaries, audit and rules committee was held. His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, and Mr. Levon Sargsyan (Araratyan Pontifical Diocese), were elected as co-chairman of the Assembly. The positions of co-Vice Chairman was assumed by His Eminence Archbishop Abraham Mkrtchyan, Primate of the Diocese of Vayots Dzor, and Dr. Varoujan Altebarmakian, member of the Supreme Spirital Council (Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America).
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS KAREKIN II,
AT THE DIOCESAN REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
June 6, 2017
Your Eminence Archbishop Karekin Bekchian, Locum Tenens of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,
Your Eminences, Reverend Fathers and esteemed lay delegates,
We greet you and welcome you to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and extend to you all our appreciation and blessings for your participation at this Diocesan Representative Assembly. We greatly value your efforts, especially your fervent dedication to the advancement of our ecclesiastical life, to which you bring your devoted efforts for the sake of realization of the mission of our Holy Church.
The Diocesan Representative Assembly is being convened between sessions of the National-Ecclesiastical Assembly, to discuss matters facing our national ecclesiastical life. We note with thankfulness that during the previous session of the 5th Diocesan Representative Assembly in 2014, we unanimously ratified the By-laws of this Assembly, which defines the scope of its jurisdiction, the membership and other matters of importance. Naturally, when applied, the By-laws may become subject to procedural amendments in consideration of suggestions which are sent by the dioceses. The ratification of the Diocesan Representative Assembly’s By-laws is a substantial step forward towards formation and adoption of the general Constitution of our Church. An important achievement is also the creation of the Guidelines for Diocesan By-laws, which in 2009 was directed by the Diocesan Representative Assembly to be implemented in the Dioceses.
At many times during the previous sessions of the Diocesan Representative Assembly we have discussed the issues of lateness which is demonstrated in the process of the adoption of the By-laws Guidelines. In several dioceses on various pretexts, the ratification of the by-laws is yet to be implemented. Occasionally a groundless justification is being circulated that the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin has a distant aspiration regarding the properties of the dioceses. It is also reproachable when the Diocesan Assembly of certain dioceses initiaties suppression for rejecting the decision of the Diocesan Representatives Assembly. After attending Diocesan Representatives Assembly through their delegates and presenting their suggestions and views, the dioceses are obliged to unreservedly adopt and apply the decisions of this higher body. The responsible ecclesiastical bodies must finally finish the formation of the diocesan and parish by-laws, in line with the model-document, understanding that hesitation in regulation of the ecclesiastical-spiritual life hinders the development of our Church and impedes the successful fulfillment of the God-given mission in the life of our people. The Diocesan Representative Assembly must express its opinion and take corresponding decisions against such unacceptable actions.
Today the draft of the modified Constitution for the National-Ecclesiastical Assembly will be presented to you for discussion. By the adoption of this Constitution, the activities of the highest jurisdictional body of Armenia, with its authority, will play an important role in the mission of the settlement of ecclesiastical and national issues and in the blessed endeavors to build a prosperous future for our people. By the will of God, we shall shortly undertake the work of formation of the other articles of the Church’s Constitution. We are assured that by the will of God we shall be able to overcome the challenges that our Church is facing in respect to the adoption of the constitution, having as an ultimate desire to have a completed constitution for our Church. The affirmation of our Church life on constitutional grounds will provide positive outcomes to the activities of our Church, it will encourage the involvement of our people in the ecclesiastical life, and it will also increase the credibility of our church organizations and strengthen optimism towards our future.
The constitutions by which our ecclesiastical life will be regulated, especially the administrative aspect of our Church, are anchored in the commandments of the Gospel, in the canons of the holy fathers, and in the centuries-long tradition of our church, at the same time demanding a mission which is in accord with the needs of the modern world.
Additionally, a consultation review project has been undertaken by us with an intent to increase the efficiency of operations in our ecclesiastical life. The project was discussed several times at the sessions of the Supreme Spiritual Council and has received an approval. Presently, 20 clergymen and lay people are being involved in the works of the project, both from Armenia and from the Diaspora. All of them are undertaking the formulation of the task and questions, based on which the necessary research of the consultation project will take place. The project is being coordinated by a renowned and experienced compatriot of ours from the United States, Mr. Aso Tavitian.
It is impossible to imagine the elimination of the challenges which our Church is facing, unless the church organizations closely cooperate. In this regards it is greatly important to deepen the close and warm relationships between the hierarchical sees, the dioceses and other ecclesiastical organizations.
We note with gratitude that the relations between the Mother See and the hierarchical sees are on good terms. Joint committees with the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia consistently continue to operate. Through such fraternal relationships it was possible to organize the joint Episcopal Assemblies, as a result of which we offered the rite of canonization of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. We are delighted that year by year the pilgrimages of our faithful sons from worldwide dioceses to Jerusalem is increased, through which a support is extended to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In the passing year the works of the restoration of the Holy Dominical Tomb were successfully completed, towards which, upon the request of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin has substantially contributed with its worldwide dioceses.
In recent months, we were all troubled by the undesired development of events in the life of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople. We offer thanks to God, that upon our advice and as our pious people were expecting, through the joint efforts of the clergy and lay officials of the Patriarchate it became possible to restore the normal state of life within the Patriarchate and the Patriarchal Locum Tenens was able to assume his duties. Once more we express our support to the Locum Tenens of the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Eminence Archbishop Karekin Bekchian and urge him to undertake with diligence the current works of the Patriarchate and organize the election of the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople in accordance with the canons of our Church.
Dear Eminence, Reverend Fathers, and honorable lay delegates, together with the Christ-given ministry our Church also has a mission of the preservation of the national identity. Within this framework our Church will continue its service in the field of education of the new generation, so that the Sahak-Mesropian school may always live in the life of our people through faith, through our mother tongue and tradition. It is necessary to mobilize all the strength of our church organizations, our clergymen and lay people, so that we may be able to unite all the sons and daughters of our people in an atmosphere of Christian love, fraternity and national values to make the life of our people prosperous and perpetual with the blessings of our holy Church. As it is said by the psalmist: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage”. (Ps. 33:12)
One of the pivotal factors in the realization of the mission of the Church is the personality of the of clergy. Only a clergyman who is educated, faithful and diligent, can reflect as a mirror the image of Christ, as stated by St. Paul. Only such kind of clergymen can sow love and faith in the Armenian homes as well as optimism in the life of the Armenians. The spiritual higher educational institutions of the Mother See, where nearly 250 students are being trained, serve the mission of the preparation of clergymen. Each year around 30 clergymen are being ordained and are called to ministry. Future clergymen are also being trained in the seminaries of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, Jerusalem as well as at the St. Nersess Seminary in the Eastern Diocese of America. Today around 800 clergymen serve within the Mother See and the dioceses. There is a presence of clergymen in the schools and universities, in the army, care centers, and in hospitals. The Mother See also provides care for those who are in prison and for their families. It also carries out social projects through soup kitchens, the Karekin II charitable house building initiative, through orphaned children support etc. Through the Charitable Social office of the Mother See, the Church provides help for the needy and the vulnerable, to whom last year was allocated 820 million AMD in total. The Mother See also takes care of those sons and daughters who have fled Syria and found refuge in Armenia.
The enlargement and productivity of the activities of our Church have become possible in the reality of independent statehood and with the complete support of state organizations. Having this in mind we would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to our state officials on behalf of you, the participants of the Diocesan Representative Assembly.
The Republic of Armenia with its independent statehood is a firm anchor for the entire Armenian nation. It is the sacred duty of each of us to protect Armenia and our own land of Artsakh, and our centuries-old sacred values; to dedicate all our efforts to the strengthening and development of our statehood, and to withstand the economic, social, demographic and all the other numerous challenges that our country is facing. It is our sacred duty to show support to the Armenian Army, to the establishment of peace at our borders, unification of all the efforts for the sake of empowerment of the Republic of Artsakh and its international recognition, and to the victory of our just cause.
In 2018 our people will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Sardarapat, and the establishment of the first Republic of Armenia. We shall use this opportunity to value our independent statehood, to renew our love and responsibility towards our motherland.
Dear delegates, once more we express our happiness on the occasion of holding this Diocesan Representative Assembly. In the good atmosphere of modern times it is a grace and honor for all of all to undertake the arrangement of the constitution of our Holy Church, which shall open up new horizons in the blessed paths of the mission of our Church.
With a grateful heart we would like to express our appreciation to all the oath-bound clergy of our Church, to the members of the diocesan and administrative organizations, to our philanthropicbenefactor sons and daughters, to all of you, dear delegates, that upon our message you always readily support the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and all those who are in need whether Armenia or in Artsakh or the Diaspora.
It is our prayer to the God Most High, that we may proceed in the path of success during this assembly, for the welfare of the life of our Christ-loving people. We beseech the Lord so that He may assist us and guide our paths and services with the Holy Spirit for the eternal glory of our Holy Church and advancement of our national-ecclesiastical life. May the Lord keep our Homeland and our people around the world under the shadow of His Holy Right Hand, forever and ever. Amen