Commentary: The Facts are the Facts...Or Are They? - 1999

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The Facts are the Facts … Or Are They?

Commentary by C. K. Garabed

Published in the Armenian Reporter International

September 4, 1999

Now that negotiations between the Diocese and Prelacy on church unity have been discontinued, it may afford us the opportunity to reflect on some of the ideas that the rank and file may have harbored which, in turn, may have influenced the leaders on both sides. Some of those ideas may be downright misconceptions, as we can easily verify. Perhaps we can address the subject by means of a statement-and-comment approach. Except that the validity of the proposed comments are for the reader to decide upon.

1. Statement: The Holy See of Etchmiadzin is the true hierarchical seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Therefore, the Holy See of Cilicia occupies a lesser status.

Comment: Originally, there was only one hierarchical Holy See, located in Etchmiadzin. However, the seat of the church government was sometimes relocated, for security reasons. On one such occasion, when the Holy See was relocated to Cilicia, the church fathers subsequently desired that it be relocated back to Etchmiadzin. However, the occupant of the Chair refused to relocate from Cilicia to Etchmiadzin. The church fathers responded by electing a new Catholicos in Etchmiadzin. Mind you, the incumbent, considered Amenayn Hayotz, was elected for life, yet was superseded by virtue of the election of a replacement. This action had no precedent and had the effect of creating a second Holy See where only one had previously existed. The Holy See of Cilicia continued to function, providing spiritual leadership to the Armenians in the Middle East. Now, which of the current Catholicoi can claim true Apostolic Succession?

2. Statement: The churches of the Prelacy were once part of the Diocese, and St. Vartan Cathedral is the first cathedral in the U.S.

Comment: When the Armenian Church of America was established, the articles of incorporation stipulated the name “Prelacy,” and so it continues to the present day. St. Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral was the seat of the church in America and continues to function as the Cathedral of the Prelacy. When St. Vartan Cathedral was built, it would not do to register it in the name of the Prelacy, so the Diocese was created in which name St. Vartan was registered. Now, who was originally part of whom?

3. Statement: The drive for unity has as its principal purpose the reincorporation of the separated brethren into the main body of the church in the U.S.

Comment: The concept of “separated brethren” connotes a willful separation on the part of the separated ones. When a faction of delegates to the National Representative Assembly walked out of the duly constituted national convention, who are to be considered the separators and the separatees? And, following the cataclysmal events of 1933, when certain parishioners were forcefully prevented from attending Mass in their customary churches, who was it that was acting willfully to achieve separation?

4. Statement: There’s no place in church for politics.

Comment: This idea is intended to apply to one side only. Forgotten are the 70 years of atheistic communist control of the Armenian Church via Etchmiadzin, and the willing cooperation of many sympathizers among Armenian-Americans.