Armenia is going through distressful times. The domestic political events are passing through storms, the core of which is the calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, which is demanded by the opposition forces and others, but not widely supported by the public.
In these turbulent circumstances, it is remarkable and somewhat surprising the participation of high-ranking clergy in the ongoing political processes in the country. Immediately after the end of the war with Azerbaijan and turkey, the Catholicos of All Armenians joined those demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, thus openly associating himself with one segment of the Armenian society against the other one. The position of His Holiness continues to be controversial and is being widely discussed within Armenia and in the Diaspora. Many believe that the Catholicos, as the head of the Church, should stay out of internal disagreements and be content with calls for solidarity and unity, without entering into the narrow paths of politics.
If we assume for a moment that the recent catastrophe that befell the Armenian nation was unprecedented and that His Holiness had his reasons to take such a step, yet, on the other hand, there is no justification for the unfortunate role played by other clergymen in sowing divisions in the society and further inflaming the heated climate. The Primate of the Shirak Diocese refuses to attend the memorial on the anniversary of the 1988 earthquake because Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is present. Moreover, he participates in the opposition rallies on Liberty Square in Yerevan, delivering a political speech. Other clergymen behave the same way, demonstratively marching in the front row of the opposition march to Yerablur Cemetery, and a day later they are absent from a larger mourning ceremony for those soldiers who have died during the war.
In recent days, a remarkable event has taken place during Pashinyan’s visit to the Syunik region, when one of the priests refused to shake hands with the Prime Minister and even had the audacity to invite him out of the church. Following this disrespectful behavior, many people in the area gathered in front of the church to demand the removal of the priest. The Vicar General of the Syunik Diocese was forced to issue an official statement, attributing the incident to a misunderstanding.
These and other similar events should be a wake-up call for the servants of the Armenian Church. It is not pleasant for anyone to see brutal criticism leveled against high ranking clergy on social media and elsewhere. As we watch and see, the chasm and the mistrust is widening between the people and the Church. Someday, politicians will solve their disagreements and today’s opponents will become allies, but the clergy will be forever deprived of the courage to look into the eyes of their flock.
In the face of these realities, it is up to His Holiness to call upon his clergy to step out of politics and follow the words of the Gospel by preaching solidarity, love, and unity.