Armenian Church Representative Assembly Convenes in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

September 2014

On September 18, in Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, under the presidency of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, the 5th Armenian Church Representative Assembly was convened. The Assembly was attended by representatives of the Armenian Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Constantinople, Pontifical delegations, Diocesan Primates of Armenia and the Diaspora, lay delegates, members of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin and members of the Supreme Spiritual Council.

The Assembly was opened with the Lord’s Prayer. His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council and Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America; gave opening remarks, emphasizing the importance of the works of the Armenian Church Representative Assembly, in continuing the vibrancy and effective mission of the Armenian Church.

The Catholicos of All Armenians offered his Pontifical blessings and remarks to the 155 delegates of the Armenian Church Representative Assembly:

“Dear spiritual Fathers and Beloved children of our faithful,

With a joyful spirit we welcome you in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the sacred spiritual center of our nation, and under its blessed auspices, and by the will of God, we are again united in the Armenian Church Representative Assembly with this new enlarged body. We welcome the presence of our Hierarchical Sees; representative of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, His Eminence Archbishop Aris Shirvanian; and His Eminence Archbishop Aram Ateshian, Patriarchal General Vicar, representing the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople

We stress the importance of the Assembly’s activity, which represents the Hierarchal Sees and our Dioceses worldwide, which must engage in the following issues: processing of Constitutional changes to the Charter of the Armenian Church, organization of ecumenical life, and the best implementation of the church’s mission. In this regard, we emphasize the importance of last year’s convening of the unprecedented joint Bishop’s Synod – a combined meeting of the Bishops of the Catholicosate of All Armenians and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. This meeting must also become a regularly scheduled occurrence; strengthening our mission. New conditions and challenges of modern times bring the need for better prepared and constant actions, imperative in the ecclesiastical field. Today the problems in the spiritual- ecclesiastical life of our people need urgent solutions, unified devoted activities, and partnerships.

Dear beloved, the vitality and energy of the church is derived from the love of Jesus, which unites each child of the church, and is the heart, life, and deeds of every community member. Our ecclesiastical structures and the efforts towards overcoming difficulties and challenges will be carried out with the spirit of love and servitude, which our Lord commanded: “But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10.43-45). We must use this spirit of fraternal love and zeal for each other as power and leverage for the spiritual-ecclesiastical and national reforms, and strengthening of our life.

For carrying out the Assembly tasks in a more organized and effective manner, the agenda also includes discussion on the draft Charter of the Armenian Church Representative Assembly. The issues concerning the implementation process for the Guidelines for Diocesan Bylaws of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church, remains on the Assembly agenda. Referring with appreciation to the work that has already been accomplished on this issue, we must note that the revision work of the individual Diocesan bylaws has not yet concluded, according to the charter guidelines approved by the Armenian Church Representative Assembly. The delays in standardizing ecclesiastical life, weakens the Church’s mission, continuing to give rise to arbitrary practices. We once again highlight that the charter guideline are based on our Ecclesiastical law, cannons, and rules, and does not limit the powers and authority of dioceses. In previous years, in this regard, wrong comments have been made and excessive suspicions displayed, which are the result of altered mind-sets and unchanging stereotypes. To date, comprehensive reference work and detailed explanations have been offered. At present, the unfinished condition in some Dioceses of the adoption of the Guidelines for Diocesan Bylaws is incomprehensible and unacceptable, and this work needs to be completed with proper haste.

Great attention should be paid to the reality that our parish and community life reflects the great effects from shifts in our nation. Communities are infused with new members, but these changes, which have been ongoing for years, are not reflected within the activities of the Diocesan structures. A disproportionate involvement of community members occurs in the diocesan processes. We may note that often in comparison to the number of Armenians living in the Diocesan area, their participation is less in the spiritual and religious life, events and initiatives. It is necessary to strengthen the dissemination of information in advance of these challenges, launch more wide-ranging activities, and among the active members of the Church actively recruit those Armenians who only partially participate in the ecclesiastical life. In the Diaspora, there continues to be concern over the preservation of a national consciousness among the new generation, the usage and proficiency of the native language, and the challenges of mixed marriages. It is necessary to implement new programs aimed towards keeping young people inside the national fold, nurturing and educating spiritual and national values.

The Christian’s important role in the life of society is being destroyed by the frequent distortion of moral values, which has a devastating impact in the scope of world and faith matters. Indeed, we have church-loving youth organizations in every Diocese. Under the auspices of the Mother See the world-wide Armenian Church Youth Organization (ACYO) has been established; Sunday schools and Youth centers are operating. Although work has been done, it is worth it to put greater efforts to extensively involve young people in the mission of our Holy Church in Armenia and the Diaspora, and towards strengthening their spiritual and religious knowledge, faith and zeal.

In this coming year, our nation will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. We’ll offer incense to heaven in memory of our martyrs; becoming strengthened in our will and faith to see justice. We’ll make an effort to make the major anniversary an opportunity for strengthening our lives and to achieve universal recognition of the Armenian genocide. On this occasion our Church will fulfill the sanctification of our innocent martyrs. In 2015, in Holy Etchmiadzin we’ll offer the sacred Blessing of the Holy Chrism, for the comforting of our people, strengthening of our faith and Christian values, unity of our people and unity around the Mother See and our Homeland.

Dear beloved, you know that the preservation of the Armenian identity and successful activities are an inseparable part of the mission of our Holy Church, the implementation of which many pious Armenian sons and daughters of our dioceses worldwide offer their contribution with the blessings of our Lord. The zeal of the faith and love of the Homeland is inseparably connected in our nation’s soul, which we must always be kept awake and bright. It is absolute that we will build our bright future on firm foundations of our native state. The fertile soil is the national statehood, on which the nation reveals and manifests her spiritual potential, and implements her ideals. Currently, our country, along with the achievements of the two decades of independence, is facing economic and social problems, difficulties and political challenges. In recent months, on the borderlines of Artsakh and Armenia, many cases of ceasefire violations have proven how fragile peace is. Our people are concerned about the Artsakh conflict and the peaceful settlement and international recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic; the elimination of the illegal blockades of Armenia; international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and issues of condemnation and reparations; and the problems and difficulties of Armenians and communities who are involved in the conflicts in the Middle East, Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine. All of which our church draws attention to in the ecumenical arena, and through it, makes their voice heard to the responsible officials of the states and international organizations as well as urges and encourages Armenians worldwide to unify efforts to solve national problems. This representative assembly is also called on to reflect and discuss support for the homeland and those plans and recommendations related to solving the national life’s existing problems, which can be implemented through our Church and ecclesiastical organizations.

We believe that the Armenian Church Representative Assembly activities will promote the efficiency of the mission of the Church, urgently responding to our nation’s concerns and questions, proposing suggestions and projects, and making appropriate decisions that will support the work of the Armenian Church Representative Assembly with a unified mission, realizing new achievements in the national- ecclesiastical life.

We heartily pray, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that the work of this Assembly is effective and that the support and assistance of Almighty God guides us in our ministry. We ask that Almighty God grant peace and prosperity to Armenians around the world, our Homeland and with his Holy Right Hand, keep our Apostolic Holy Church unwavering and bright. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with everyone, Amen”.

After the Pontifical blessing and mandate, the participants were welcomed on behalf of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Eminence Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, by Patriarchate representative His Eminence Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, “We are gathered here jointly to discuss highly important ecclesiastical and national issues that need solutions. It is desirable that we approach these issues seriously and in solemn understanding for the benefit of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the entire Armenian people”, said His Eminence Aris, referring also to the current turbulent situation in the Middle East, which endangers the presence of Christians in the Middle East countries.

His Eminence Archbishop Aram Ateshian, Patriarchal Vicar General of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople; also welcomed the participants, expressing gratitude to the Lord that once again granted the opportunity to unite under the auspices the Mother See. “Such meetings are very important events, especially at present, when the Armenian Church more than ever needs to demonstrate a strong position of unity to resist the destructive power of various sources. Again, such meetings will have positive results when they serve for strengthening the faith and building of spiritual life to at least one member of the Armenian Church”, noted His Eminence Aram, further stating that the participants of the Assembly, symbolizing a unified class of clergy and lay, must work together relying on God, taking into consideration the Armenian Church’s steadfast will and accomplishments, spiritual prosperity and strengthening.

The official opening of the Assembly was followed by nomination and election of officers and committees. By result of voting, serving as the Assembly co-Chairman are His Eminence Archbishop Yeznik Petrosian, Primate of the Diocese of Tavush; and Dr. Varoujan Altebarmakian, member of the Supreme Spiritual Council and of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America. His Eminence Archbishop Abraham Mkrtchian, Primate of the Diocese of Vayots Dzor, and Mr. Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, member of the Armenian Diocese of Great Britain were elected to serve as vice chairman. Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamian, Vicar General of the Armenian Diocese of France; Rev. Fr. Tiran Petrosian, Pontifical Legate of Central Europe and Sweden; Dr. Lynn Cetin, member of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America; and Mrs. Ruzanna Chopikian, member of the Diocese of Artik; were elected to serve as members of the Audit Committee.

During the three-day meeting, the agenda items to be discussed are making amendments to and implementing results for the Guidelines for Diocesan Bylaws as well as the draft Charter of the Armenian Church Representative Assembly. A report from the Mother See will be given on the committee organizing and coordinating the events for the Armenian Church on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and about the canonization process of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.