14 February 2016. A two-day conference to evaluate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Commemorative events was held at the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias. The participants included Mrs Heranoush Hagopian, Minister of Diaspora of Armenia, Mr Ashod Kocharian, Ambassador of Armenia to Lebanon, Diocesan Bishops, members of Genocide Commemoration committees of the region and representatives of political parties.
At the end of the conference, the participants met with His Holiness Aram I. After welcoming the participants, the Catholicos praised Minister Heranoush Hagopian for her work in strengthening Armenia-Diaspora relations.
The Catholicos then described the 2015 Commemorations as a force that mobilized Armenians in all parts of the world. He said that Armenians should now consider what lessons we can take from these commemorations and develop new strategies in the context of the dominant global geopolitics. These strategies should re-affirm Armenian identity, reinforce claims for justice and strengthen Armenia and the Diaspora.
The Catholicos then went on to share his concerns and vision for the future:
First, Only when it overcomes corruption and enables efficient Armenia-Diaspora relations will Armenia gain respect, be heard internationally and be able to advocate forcefully the rights of Armenians and their claims for justice.
Second, Karabagh’s independence must be defended. Without the political will to resolve the problem, the country will remain under the constant threat of war. Therefore, all efforts should focus on strengthening the army and the people of Karabagh.
Third, while we should continue to pursue the recognition of the Armenian Genocide through political means, we must now focus on claims for reparation through legal means. The Catholicosate of Cilicia has set the precedence by asking the Turkish Constitutional Court to return its See in Sis, a litigation that was prepared by a team of international lawyers and experts in international law. Aram I then reiterated an earlier recommendation, asking that a team of experts be appointed to study the archives for deeds and other documents of ownership in Etchmiadzin, Antelias and Jerusalem.
Fourth, the Catholicos called for a united Armenian approach regarding Turkey. He noted that unity does not imply uniformity. He said that he is calling for a model that will respect diversity of thought and approach, one that includes a clear division of responsibilities and tasks. In his explanation, Aram I stated that the diaspora did not expect Armenia to demand the return of properties on their behalf. However, the government of Armenia could support the Church morally in its struggle for the return of confiscated monasteries and churches, and the diaspora for the confiscated properties of its members. Armenia must separate the issues, approaches and solutions concerning the diaspora from those of the Republic of Armenia.
The Catholicos concluded his message by welcoming the President of Armenia’s announcement the previous day regarding constitutional changes and hoped they would lead to a new political culture, bringing stability, stopping emigration and promoting healthier relations with the diaspora.