“The Supreme Spiritual Council is the advising body to the Catholicos of all Armenians which discusses the administrative, organizational, cultural, economic, construction and charity issues of the Armenian Church, as well as those issues connected with native and foreign churches,” is stated on the Mother See’s official website.
As we can see, politics is absent from the list of issues mentioned, but the statement issued at the end of the extended meeting of the Supreme Spiritual Council convened in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on May 17 is entirely political and appears to be written to support opposition actions in the streets of Yerevan.
According to the information released before the meeting, the attendees were to examine the strengthening and renovation of the Mother Cathedral, the organization of the Muron Blessing, the situation in Armenia and Artsakh, the educational mission of the Armenian Apostolic Church within the dioceses of Armenia and Artsakh, as well as the administrative and canonical life issues. Hopefully, all these issues were discussed by the Supreme Spiritual Council members, but evidently, they did not find it necessary to address them in the final statement, and the focus has been entirely on the political situation in Armenia and Artsakh, criticizing the policies of the Armenian government and more or less repeating the views of the opposition.
The Armenian Church, being an apolitical institution, is one of our most important national structures and has the right to express its opinion and guide its followers on broad issues. However, it becomes problematic when the Church gets involved in internal political matters and begins to point arrows at one of the opposing sides in favor of the other.
A similar political statement was made by the Supreme Spiritual Council in February of last year, when the opposition again was on the streets, demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister. During those events, Mother See also joined the calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister. At that time the Church was widely criticized for its intervention in the political life of the country. Now, with such a statement, the Mother See comes to make it clear that it remains on the same point of view, even though elections took place since then, and the people of Armenia have spoken.
The second question arising on this occasion concerns the Church’s silence and indifference to the occurrences of recent decades. During the events of the March 1, 2008 carnage, when 10 innocent people were killed on the streets of Yerevan by the government forces, and during all the popular uprisings and protests that preceded and followed those events, the Holy See remained silent, arguing that “the Church should not be involved in politics.” However, suddenly, after the Velvet Revolution, clergymen are acting like politicians, criticizing the governments’ decisions and policies on issues, and often participating in opposition rallies.
These are some of the issues why the gap between the Church and the people is widening, with many leaving the church altogether, while others turning to social media to express their outrage, sometimes using insults against the clergy. To prevent such phenomena, the Church must reconsider its approach when dealing with internal debates, and stay away from political issues, operating solely out of national concerns and taking into account the views of the people to whom the Armenian Apostolic Church and its clergy are called to serve.