Armenian Catholic Church

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Beginning in the 12th century, Armenians came into contact with the Roman Church through their ties with the Crusaders in Cilicia. Later in the 14th century, through the missionary activities of the Franciscan and Dominican orders, a "latinizing movement" gained ground among "liberal elements in the Armenian Church." However, it was only in the 19th century, during the Ottoman period, that the Armenian Catholics became a millet--an autonomous Church affiliated with Roman Catholicism. In 1831, when a new constitution for Christians living in the Ottoman Empire was instituted, " 'the (Armenian) Catholic Church Community" was created and legally recognized to form the Armenian Rite Catholic segment of the Roman Church, with its own hierarchy and its own Catholicos-Patriarch." In the early 18th century, two Mekhitarist monastic congregations were established in Venice and Vienna, which have "rendered inestimable service to Armenian letters and scholarship fostering and enriching the religious and cultural heritage of Armenians.

Above text based on excerpt from http://www.sain.org/Armenian.Church/intro.txt Hratch Tchilingirian, The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church (www.sain.org) 1996. Copyright 1996.

The Ukrainian Catholic church entered into communion with Rome in 1596, and is the largest of 24 Eastern Catholic churches, including Armenian, Melkite, Romanian and Chaldean Catholics. They are all in communion with the Pope, and accept his authority. But, aside from that link with Rome, the Eastern Catholic churches are little different from the 16 Eastern Orthodox churches, with their 300 million followers.
The Eastern churches are "far more open to evocative symbolism and a non-cerebral approach," says Father Galadza. They were also the model for many of the changes brought into the Roman Catholic church by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
Among the innovations borrowed from the East were permanent deacons, services in the vernacular, instead of Latin, increased participation by laity, and the celebration of communion in wine as well as bread. One custom that was not adopted is married priests.

AZG Armenian Daily #084, 11/05/2005

Church

ARCHBISHOP NSHAN GARAKEHEYAN APPOINTED NEW HEAD OF CATHOLIC ARMENIANS IN ARMENIA, GEORGIA AND EASTERN EUROPE

There are 200.000 Armenian Catholics in Armenia and Javakhk (Georgia) today. The Catholic diocese of Armenia, Georgia and Eastern Europe reopened in 1991 after the break in Soviet era. Archbishop Nerses Ter-Nersesian, member of Mkhitarist Congregation of Venice, has spearheaded the diocese all these years. But not long ago before his death, Pope John Paul II replaced Ter-Nersisian because of his age and appointed Archbishop Nshan Garakeheyan. Inaugural ceremony took place last Sunday, 8 May, at St. Gregory the Illuminator of Arevik village of Shirak region.

The ceremony hosted many guests from Gyumri, Lori, Tavush, and Javakhk. Vatican's envoy Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti and the head of Shirak diocese of Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Mikael Ajapahian took part in the ceremony as well.

The last 4 of 45 years of service Archbishop Garakeheyan spent as head of Armenian Catholic diocese in Iran. "I came to serve you, the Lord and our beloved fatherland - Armenia", he said to the crowd.

By Gegham Mkrtchian


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Vatican Information Service 12 Sept 2005

VATICAN CITY, SEP 12, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father elevated the apostolic exarchate for faithful of the Armenian rite resident in the U.S.A. and Canada, to the rank of eparchy with the name "Our Lady of Nareg in New York for Armenian Catholics," and with the same territorial configuration as the current exarchate. He appointed Bishop Manuel Batakian, apostolic exarch for faithful of the Armenian rite resident in the U.S.A. and Canada, as first bishop of the new eparchy.




Window View of the Armenian Church- Vol. 5, No. 3 & 4, 1995

ARMENIA AND THE VATICAN Foreign Policy, the Armenian Church and the Diaspora

A Conversation with Vahan Papazian Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia

by Hratch Tchilingirian


Q. Recently the Republic of Armenia opened an Embassy at the Vatican, could you give us some details about this mission?

PAPAZIAN: The opening of the Armenian Embassy in the Vatican was part of our ongoing efforts to establish relations with foreign countries. As such, it is not a major political move on our part.

It is an aim of our foreign policy to establish contacts with international structures, especially European institutions. As a successor to a former Soviet republic, we are members of the CIS-which is very important for us-and at the same time we are participating in other regional and functional organizations, for example the OSCE, Black Sea Cooperation Council, and in the future, we hope to participate in the ECO [Economic Cooperation Organization] as observers, and others. However, our immediate objective is to participate in the structures of the European Union-the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, etc. Of course, initially as an observer and then hopefully as a full member. From this perspective-why I am mentioning all these objectives-it is important for Armenia to deepen its diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Of course the Vatican is not a big state, but it has major influence on various countries and as such Armenian-Vatican relations are significant. It was with these intentions that we opened an Embassy in the Vatican.

Q. Is there an Armenian Ambassador in the Vatican?

PAPAZIAN: The Armenian Embassy at the Vatican is not like other embassies that we've established in other countries. I say this in the sense that there would not be a permanent ambassador sitting in the Vatican. Instead, Mr. Armen Sarkissian-our ambassador to Great Britain and Belgium- has also been certified to be ambassador to the Vatican. He will visit the Vatican a few times a year or as needed to have meetings with Vatican officials, or discuss various issues or carry out negotiations on behalf of the Republic of Armenia.

Q. How was you meeting with the Pope?

PAPAZIAN: My meeting with the Pope, together with our ambassador was important. During our meeting I presented to His Holiness the current situation in Armenia and Karabakh, and the processes related to the conflict in Karabakh. We explained to him how we see the political solution of the conflict. I believe we have his cooperation and understanding in this regard. We also met with other senior officials in the Vatican, with whom we discussed these issues in greater detail. We received assurances that the Vatican, through its channels, will help Armenia integrate into European structures.

Q. Were there any discussions about religious issues or inter- church relations?

PAPAZIAN: We did not discuss religious issues and I believe we should not. As a representative of the Republic of Armenia, it is not my place to discuss issues related to the Armenian Church. The Armenian Church is separate from the state and as such, I do not have the right to speak in the name of the Armenian Church with the Pope or with any other Vatican official. Of course people in the Vatican were interested in my personal opinions on religious issues-not as the Foreign Minister but as an Armenian individual. I would say we had rather an academic discussion on religious matters and that was the extent of it. Obviously, the Vatican is interested in religious matters in Armenia and I presented them my personal views.

I am aware of the sub-text of your question, and let me say a few words about that. I do not believe that there is a sense of competition or opposition between the two churches. There should not be. The Armenian Apostolic Church is not any church. The Armenian Church is our National Church, and as such, she needs certain state support-in my opinion. It is another question whether the state has the capability to do so. Of course, our people has lived in the orbit of the Armenian Church for centuries and it will continue to do so. That is where we belong. Our religious, spiritual and church life will continue to be the way it has been throughout history.

Q. In this context, how do you characterize the role of the Armenian Church?

PAPAZIAN: Of course, I do not wish to interfere with the affairs of the Armenian Church-and I do not have any intention to interfere-but I believe and hope that Etchmiadzin, as the religious center of the Armenian nation, will play a more active, practical and vital role in the life of our society. I believe this is essential in view of the fact that our society-having rid itself of Soviet controls, including the pressures that were put on the church-needs to fill this spiritual vacuum. Obviously, there are other spiritual sources in a given society, such as culture, science, etc., but the church should have its place in the life of the society as well.

So far, Etchmiadzin-in my opinion-has not been able to satisfy the religious needs of our people. This has caused some problems because when the church is unable to fill the spiritual vacuum of society, others will come and do the work. And we as a state will not fight against that. The state does not have the right to decide what faith or religion its citizens should adhere to. It is up to the national church to decide what to do and how to conduct its mission. This is my personal opinion.

Q. To continue in this vein, the 1991 law on freedom of conscience and religion contains several contradictions concerning the Armenian Church. On the one hand the law prescribes the separation of church and state and on the other gives the Armenian Church certain privileges. This is considered unfair by other churches or religious groups in Armenia.

PAPAZIAN: I agree with you that the law in this respect is not perfect. That law was accepted in 1991 when the Parliament was new and inexperienced. Let us not forget that Armenia is a new state, where national and political thought is in a process of development. In this respect, if there are contradictions in the law they will be refined in time. Personally, I am not involved with legislative processes, that's the job of the parliament. However, I believe that contradictions in the law should be ironed out. Especially, as Foreign Minister, I think contradictions should be worked out in accordance with international principles. Our standards and principles should match internationally accepted principles. I believe that international principles accord the Armenian Church full opportunities to continue and deepen her historical and national role. We cannot resolve all problems by law.

Q. In the Diaspora, the Armenian Church has been a surrogate state for Armenians, at least until the Independence of Armenia. As Foreign Minister, how do you regard the Armenian Church in the Diaspora today?

PAPAZIAN: You are asking me a very complex question. Having been involved with these issues for the last three-four years, I think the issue is related to the various facets and internal structures of the Diaspora. The existing internal organization and structures in the Diaspora-including the church- are not sufficient enough to deal with contemporary national issues. Of course, I am an Armenian [resident of Armenia] and I might be mistaken-perhaps a Diaspora Armenian would better respond to these questions. I do not reserve the right to criticize, but this is my opinion.

As to what kind of changes or transformations are needed for the church to respond better to the needs of the people, that is up to the church to decide how it should make herself more attractive to the people.

As far as I am concerned, the objective should be the following (and this pertains not only to the church but also to other structures): the church has a specific structure, Etchmiadzin-the center of the church-is in Armenia and in the final analysis, formal and important decisions and policies concerning the church are made in Etchmiadzin. Thus, all the dioceses and the clergy in the Diaspora are expected to adhere and implement these decisions. In this respect, the role of the church is very specific, because Armenia, as a state, cannot intervene in the internal affairs of the Diaspora. The Armenians of the Diaspora are citizens of their respective countries (here I am simplifying the issue to tell you what I think). As such, the church could have more influence than the Armenian state. It is true that we have our embassies (not everywhere), which are set up to execute our policies with the governments and authorities of the respective countries-not the Armenian communities. But the church has more freedom and access to the local community than the embassy. As to what needs to be done, it is difficult to say anything specific. One thing is clear, the church has many things to do. I also realize that by simply theorizing or clarifying the problems you do not necessarily solve them. It is essential to have the people, the personnel, who would seriously tackle the problems. I know from my own experience-what we lack in foreign diplomacy is not policy, but people.

I am hopeful that Etchmiadzin will gain its strength again, especially now that we will have a new Catholicos, and I say this not just as a member of the Armenian Church, but because our nation, our country needs her.


  • This interview was conducted on March 29, 1995, in

Athens. Translated from Armenian by H. Tchilingirian.

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