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Catholicos Karekin II Stands Accused

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Editorial, 8 August 2013

Addendum - Publisher's Note, 13 August 2013
Contributors: V. Mekhitarian, M. Kojayan, D. Abrahamian
Compiled and edited by Jirair Tutunjian

Faced with local or national crisis most Armenians go into two modes these days: “Let’s not wash our dirty laundry in public” or “Exposure is the first step in resolving a crisis.” In the past few months a scandal—immense, terrifying and excoriating—has crashed into our national public arena. It’s no less than the management style and reputation of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II. As catholicos, he is not just the spiritual leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, but is almost as important to the Armenian Nation as the president of Armenia. A smear on the catholicos is a smear on our Nation—even on those who are members of the Cilicia See, are Catholic, Protestant… atheist.

The critics of Catholicos Karekin II have circulated petitions, published open letters and articles, convened meetings, commented on the electronic media, and some have even demanded the resignation of the catholicos. The accusations leveled are in the many scores: Fraud, moral turpitude, corruption, autocracy, the decline of Echmiadzin clergy’s morals and morale, malaise among the clergy…the litany goes on…inclusive of the Seven Deadly Sins and some. A diatribe orgy? Hidden agendas by his enemies or enemies of the Church? Far-fetched allegations? Poison letters? Here is a compilation of the alleged failings of the catholicos.

1. Catholicos Karekin II was elected (1999) through widespread fraud, thanks to the help of former President Robert Kocharian and Armenia oligarchs. Intimidation and bribes were used to get pro-Karekin votes. The $3-million bribe came from wealthy Diaspora donors, particularly from a famed family of benefactors.

Human rights worker Ara K. Manoogian of Los Angeles has aired graphic data on how the catholicos was fraudulently elected. To summarize Manoogian’s main point, the delegations from Russia and Armenia were illegally allowed a far greater number of votes than their congregation numbers justified. Manoogian, the nephew of the late Patriarch Torkom Manoogian of Jerusalem, also says that his uncle told him about the election fraud and that he had protested to Catholicos Karekin II about the blatant chicanery but to no avail.

As well, a month prior to the election, a number of archbishops released a statement which said that Armenia authorities “at the highest level have come to a consensus in favor of one candidate and are trying to install him on the throne.” The reference was to the future Catholicos Karekin II. 

2. The catholicos has fathered two children. A photo of one of his supposed offspring is on the Internet. There’s also talk that he is too intimate with a female North American donor.

3. He lacks sound knowledge of theology; knows little of the history and traditions of the Armenian Church. Despite his studies in Armenia and in Europe, he has superficial academic grounding. He even stumbles when reciting the Lord’s Prayer. There’s doubt whether he is a believer.

4. He has no spiritual grace or dignity. He is the dictatorial manager of Echmiadzin, an oligarch in royal purple soutane.

5. He has monopolized all authority as supreme judge, as head of the legislative body, as president of the Supreme Spiritual Council and as head of the College of Bishops. Transparency and accountability are foreign concepts to him.

6. He is rude, crude, common, capricious, unjust, uncouth, intemperate, incompetent, vicious, vain, venal, abusive, authoritarian, glory- and money-seeking, lacks spirituality, and is secretive….It’s not even certain whether he was born in 1951 or 1954.

7. Under his management, Holy Echmiadzin has become a cesspool of intrigue, suspicion, fear, jealousy, intimidation, and nepotism. His Stalinist-Berian style has turned Echmiadzin into a snake-pit.

8. Under his watch, senior Armenia clergymen have fathered children and lead extravagant lives. One of them—Archbishop Navasart Kjoyan, head of the Araratian Diocese—owns a Bentley, one of the most expensive cars anywhere. Kjoyan is also accused of involvement in an off-shore financial scam.

9. Homosexuality among Armenia and Diaspora clergy is another failing the catholicos hasn’t addressed.

10. Under his watch, senior Armenia clergymen have become businessmen and owners of companies. In addition to Archbishop Kjoyan, another clergyman-businessman is Bishop Abraham Mkrchyan of Vayots Dzor. He owns several mini-hydro plants.

11. As an oligarch, the catholicos is part owner of a Yerevan minibus company.

12. He has appropriated property belonging to the Church.

13. He has neglected the restoration of crumbling historical monastic buildings while spending $309,000 to purchase seven Toyotas. To avoid VAT payments, he alleged the money was donated by oligarch Samvel Karapetyan, owner of Tashir Corp. The catholicos’ “neglect” of historic church buildings has been described as “cultural genocide against Medieval Armenian churches and monasteries.”

14. His behavior and that of his Armenia clergy have driven thousands of Armenians into the arms of cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.

15. He has defrocked at least 160 archbishops, bishops, clergymen, and deacons. Never in the 1,700-year history of the Armenian Church have so many clergymen been dismissed for non-heretical reasons. His mass defrocking has been described as “a reign of terror” and “spiritual massacre of the Armenian Apostolic Church”. As a result of his capricious defrocking binge, he was rebuked by Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafyan of Istanbul. The Patriarch pointed out to him-- when a certain senior clergyman was defrocked peremptorily--that if the accusation is clear and evidential “a review board must be formed, the subject accused must be given the opportunity for self defense.” The patriarch also accused the catholicos of interfering in patriarchate affairs.  

16. When he defrocked Archbishop Tiran Kyoureghyan of the New Nakhichevan Diocese, for alleged disobedience, Catholicos Karekin II installed his own brother—a priest—as primate.

17. To hide his mediocrity and limited intellectual capacity, he has driven his contemporaries from Echmiadzin, according to a group of Canadian-Armenians.

18. He didn’t condemn the recent fraudulent presidential elections. Instead, he extended his blessing at Serge Sarkissian’s inauguration.

19. His crude and immature behavior during his meeting with Catholicos Elia II of Georgia embarrassed the Armenian Church, Armenia, and Georgian Armenians. As such, he is a harmful representative of the Armenian Church and Nation.

20. He blundered, for the nth time, in his ecumenical responsibilities when he treated the Jerusalem and Istanbul Patriarchates as if these august Sees were minor diocesan entities. An irritated Patriarch Nurhan Manougian of Jerusalem announced earlier this month that he would not attend an upcoming meeting of senior churchmen, organized by the catholicos. He like, the patriarch in Istanbul, expressed his displeasure with the catholicos’ inexplicable tactics to precipitate the resignation of Archbishop Norvan Zakarian, the long-time and popular Primate of France.

21.While visiting Jerusalem a few years ago, the catholicos threatened senior clergymen of the Sts. James’ Brotherhood and said: “I will strip all of you of your ranks.”

22. He attempted, in Western Europe (e.g. Switzerland) to centralize the management of the various churches. The French-Armenia community publicly condemned his heavy-handed interference in the internal administrative affairs of the French diocese.

23. He supported convicted criminal clergyman (Fr. Vatche Hayrabedian) against Archbishop Zakaryan. When Hayrabedian was the pastor of the church in Nice, his congregation pleaded with the catholicos to remove the disreputable clergyman. Their pleas were ignored.

In the past 1,700 years at least 15 times Armenian catholicoi have been removed or forced to resign. The first to be deposed was Kristapor II Apahooni in 630; the last Yeprem I of Tsoragegh in 1830. We don’t know if any of the grotesque accusations leveled against Catholicos Karekin II are justified, but if even 10% of the allegations are well-founded, the Catholicos of All Armenians has no option but to resign. The longer this wound festers the worse it would be for the Church and the Nation. And those in the “bien-pensant” corner who say we should not talk (“dzamots tartsank” in Armenian) about these accusations for we would be aiding our enemies, we say the days of covering up the truth are long gone. The cat is out of the bag. How could the Church survive when these accusations hang over the head of its supreme leader? As well, keeping silent would surely help make the Church and clergy irrelevant.

Even at the best of times we can’t afford an undeserving catholicos. Considering that the Armenian Nation is groping through precarious and tumultuous times, we cannot tolerate a catholicos who has lost his moral compass and doesn’t belong on the Echmiadzin throne.  The existential challenges we face leave no room for a catholicos who, according to his accusers, behaves like a modern-day Roderigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI).

The nation waits for Catholicos Karekin II to reply to the charges.

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Comments

Food for Thought

Love it or leave it!

Cowardly Nature

It is obvious that you have cowardly nature. You have discussed issues and dictate to people as if you are God. You may not have freedom over there; where I live it is a free country!

Who Wrote This?

"You are either with us or against us" is obviously Satan's words. Whoever typed this article is a self-declared Protestant because protestant means protester against the Catholic Church. He or she is  protesting against their own original Fathers of the Church, without going into theological issues. Shame on them. They are supposed to kiss his hand if they are not foreign entities of the Armenian Church.

"Let who is without sin cast the first stone."

 

Five Million Assimilated Armenians?

Just read on CivilNet.am that there might be as many Islamized Armenians in Turkey as the total population of Armenia.

Since there may be as twice as many Armenians in the Diaspora, tells me that the focus of the Church should be in an outreach to the potential five million or so of people of recent Armenian ancestry who have apparently assimilated, rather than the continued bickering and distractions by our esteemed church "leaders" to a diminishing constituency of the disheartened.

Time for the church leaders to rise to the occasion.

Karekin II

Avedis,

This is sophistry to the nth degree. I am speechless... to find that there's someone in the world who defends Pope Borgia, perhaps the most notorious pope in the long history of the Roman Catholic Church. The man's many abuses "prepared the ground" for the Reformation. What's next? Rasputin was a lovable guy, although slightly misunderstood?

Oh, Please!

Oh, please!

Learn how to read, or sell your computer and buy a rubber doll. I was not defending Borgia. I was merely trying to say, pick a better example if you want to vilify Karekin II. Alexander VI was one of the best things to happen to the Church of Rome. I was trying to indicate that whatever his morals, he made the Church of Rome the powerful church that it is--or, anyway, more powerful than it was.

Incidentally, had he lived a bit longer--maybe even one year longer--Italy would have been unified in the 16th century instead of the 19th century, because of the support that he gave to Cesare, Yes, one of his illegitimate children. But, that is neither here nor there.

Apparently, it doesn't pay to try to be clever with the anti-Karekin II crowd. If Karekin II is to be compared with Alexander VI, then the Armenian Church will be the better for it.

If Karekin II is to be compared with Rodrigo Borgia, then produce his nine children and name his five mistresses, as a starter. And then, give me a list of those he had poisoned

Until then, learn how to read. Or, pick on someone else.

Avedis Kevorkian


 

Karekin II

Although I had said my "last word," I find that I must comment on Mesrob's accusation/suggestion that Karekin II is another Borgia.

Whatever his faults--too many to list here--Borgia made the Church of Rome the powerful, strong, and more secure institution that it is today.  Before him, the Church of Rome was the plaything of kings, princes, dukes, and any powerful ruler who wanted to exert his control or influence over the Church. Borgia put an end to that and eliminated the influence these kings, princes, dukes, and powerful leaders could have.

After his death, and the 30-day pontificate of Pius III, Pope Julian had the authority and the power to rule over the king, princes, dukes and any would-be powerful leader.

Would it be in order to suggest that, maybe, Karekin is. . . .  No, let's not wander down that path.

Avedis Kevorkian
Philadelphia

 

Borgia and Rubber Dolls

Avedis,

While claiming that you are not defending Borgia, you wrote: "Borgia made the Church of Rome the powerful, strong, and more secure institution than it is today." I consider that a wholesome defense. Others might too.

And pray tell, why is it a good thing for the Church to become politically and militarily the strongest institution in Italy? One could safely  speculate that had Borgia ran the show on the Italian peninsula--as you wishfully wrote--the Reformation would have had a far more difficult time to be established. No Reformation, no Age of Enlightenment, no Age of Reason... an age very much like vile Karekin II is living in, surrounded by his corrupt cohorts, and supported by blind apologists from thousands of miles away.

According to you, when one claims similarities between two entities, the similarities should be 100% bang on or should not to be considered valid. Thus, according to you, to claim similarities between Borgia and KII, the latter should have nine children and five mistresses, like the fiendish pope. Avedis, in rhetoric this is called logical fallacy. It was discredited five centuries before Christ.

When a correspondent loses his temper and begins to utter nonsensical insults ("learn how to read... sell your computer and buy a rubber doll"), it's wise to stay clear of him. Are rubber dolls something that an adult like you should inject into a supposedly civil exchange of ideas between adults? Future insults will not be offered the generosity of a reply.

True colors?

Conspiracy

Those who defend corrupt Karekin II have offered no credible defense for their despicable "clergyman".
Some genuinely believe a criticism of the Etchmiadzin oligarch would hurt the Church and Armenians. They don't mind vile Karekin II as long as the father of several offspring maintains appearances (dresses as catholicos, parrots Church rites, looks holier-than-thou). In other words, if he talks like a duck, walks like a duck, he must be a duck.

Others see conspiracies, especially by the Tashnags and their church division in Antelias in suburban Beirut. While some/many blind Tashnags would like to see mud on Etchmiadzin, it doesn't follow that the followers of the Etchmiadzin See should automatically, blindly support an Armenian Borgia.

Other Etchmiadzin supporters are people who have always supported that See and regard any criticism of Etchmiadzin or a catholics a personal attack on them... they see it as a goal scored against them or their team.

As it has been said, mendacious Karekin's immoral and extravagant lifestyle has given "permission" to many priests down the line--priests who have no spiritual grace and who are no more than church managers with contracts, salary and benefits. And some do very well at it, thank you. According to one report, one such clergyman--in Toronto--earned $150,000 last year, in addition to other revenue streams which are not made public. His salary is untouchable because, it is said, it draws on a trust fund. For comparison purposes, the average income of a highly-educated rabbi serving affluent Toronto synagogues is about $100,000. While this priest basks in his lucrative job, another priest--in an outlying area of the city--leads an impecunious life and doesn't even have a car to serve his far-flung parish.

The situation reminds me of the gilded catholicos basking in his worldly wealth while in remote Armenia villages impoverished clergymen in threadbare garb serve their equally impoverished parishes.
 

Stop the Cash Flow!

Stop the Cash Flow

I see Catholicos Karekin chaired one of his business-as-usual gatherings in Echmiadzin, where everything was rubber-stamped to his satisfaction. And it looks like Archbishop Derderian of the Western Diocese is going along with KII's games. Perhaps he hasn't given up his ambitions of becoming catholicos some day. Advice to Derderian: this is the wrong way to go about your goal.

Since they do not respond to popular opinion, the way to bring these "elders" of the Church to their senses is through good old cash. The followers of the Apostolic Church (Echmiadzin See) should stop attending church, and hold baptisms, weddings and funerals at other Armenian churches. Finally, they should stop giving money to their parish churches. This could force the parish clergy, etc. to get together and pressure their "superiors" to give the shove to KII.

Very Well Said

Very well said. I hope some Armenians are listening. The collusion of the criminal establishment and the Church in Armenia is reaching new heights every passing day with the resulting enslavement of the vast majority of the population and the destruction of the country. We, in the Diaspora, have an obligation to support the progressive forces in Armenia, and condemn as vigorously as we can those who are not up to the task, including the Church leadership. And for those who are not sure what great Armenian Church leaders look like, I suggest they read, for example, the life and the work of Karekin Badriark Khachaduryan (by great humanist and Genocide survivor (H.C.Siruni - Aras Yayincilik 2003). Of course, not to be confused with the present day Karekin.

Money sent to the Holy See

People need to understand that every Armenian parish in the world sends money to the Holy See. I know for a fact that the Eastern Diocese sends money a few times a year equating to millions of dollars. These funds are for no specific project, but rather general support to the Holy See in Armenia. As Mesrob advises, stop supporting the Armenian Church financially until such time as the issues at hand are addressed.

Non-Support

Ara,

Just as an aside, which See do you recommend that we should support?

Support the Holy See

If you are a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church, then it would make perfect sense to support the See in Armenia. What I would like to note is that people hold onto the support they would usually give and only release it to the Holy See after such time that the issues of concern that are noted above are addressed and resolved.

Is Everyone Happy?

Comments against the catholicos go back decades. I've spent time in Armenia talking to people who had to overcome the hard times after the dissolution of the USSR. Both Catholicos Vazgen and Karekin I were sharply criticized. "Why weren't the jewels in Etchmiadzin sold off to buy food and lodging? Why was Vazgen traveling to New York to attend banquets? Where was the money going?"

So now we have a catholicos who appears to be vulnerable in today's democratic society. Criticism is inherent in Armenian society. I wonder if Karekin II is a target because he is the only catholicos I know that actually comes out of Armenia? His methods are not western oriented. They're Russian. The schism between the east and the west is wide and its still crawling its way back. Even Pope Benedict didn't have to stand up to so much criticism although the Catholic Church has much bigger problems. Maybe we should follow the lead of the Catholics and work through our problems in a dignified manner. Don't turn the Armenian Church into a Mexican standoff.

He Took a Vow of Celibacy

Karekin II is very different from Vazken I and Karekin I, as far as I know.

To minimize the damage the Church incurs before he is removed, let Karekin II not turn this situation into a standoff. Before he is further humiliated, let him step down and reunite, in public, with his biological children--two of the five for whom I have evidence of. Karekin II has to decide if his two eldest daughters deserve a dignified life or should be sacrificed.

Need we say more, Darwin?

Vow of Celibacy

I am curious to know if all of Karekin II's children are from one woman or several, and what are we waiting for (if the report of his having children is true)? He should be  defrocked; he is not entitled to the cloak or the title. Not only should he step down, but he should also be humiliated, because he has disgraced and humiliated our Church. He took the sanctity out of our Church. Shame on him and to those who keep him in that position.

The Council of Bishops should take action, otherwise the church is on a downward path under his leadership and will be weakened. In case of inaction, the bishops will be losers, too. If it is not cleansed soon enough, reversing the trend would be difficult and the damage irreversible. His corruption, inefficiency and irresponsible behavior has spilled onto some of his bishops and affected churches and communities elsewhere. Once the herd is scattered, it will be difficult to bring it back to the holy table.    

K2's not the only one

I would not expect much from Karekin's hand picked counsels. People who live in glass houses usually will not cast stones. I know of at least 2 members of the council of bishops who have children. I know of others who have had quite serious relationships with women. Our church needs a good cleaning and the removal of Katekin will be the first step, but in order to do this without destroying the church in the process, we have to prepare our flock for the change.

Anyone who proposes and advocates for radical and shocking methods to be used for change is knowingly or unknowingly going to make things worse. If we care about our church and want it to grow into what we need, the change needs to start within us and our homes. Once we do this, we will toss all the celibate clergy who have violated their vows out of our church if need be.

Put it on the Table

If you want to win over skeptics, "show me the money" is the way to go. Otherwise, the earth is still flat.

Majority Rules

Showing you the whole bank [of facts] will not change the opinion of the minority of skeptics. There will always be those who are not convinced even by undisputable facts. For this reason, I will not waste time to jump hoops for you. I ask that you wait and see, since it's still not the time to show all our cards. Right now we are waiting for K2 to draw or fold.
 

Non-constructive Assignment

A certain David gets more excited about going to a demolition derby than watching the construction of a bridge. Probably because you get more bang for the buck. I wonder how many more here have the same intent? Should he ever cross that bridge, he just might get a better view of what he was thinking. He just might like what he sees compared to the bigoted community he speaks so fondly about. Rave on David! You've been coached well.

Waiting for Church communiqué

We are all waiting for a communiqué from the Church, either by Karekin II or his PR machine. Perhaps there are already discussions among the different Diocesan Primates as to how to reply to these allegations that, if not addressed, will damage the relationship of parishioners around the world with the Church. There may be other resignations and general dissent. I am deeply disappointed that the Echmiadzin College of Bishops has accepted the "resignation" of Archbishop Norvan Zakarian. They seem to be in cahoots with KII. They will go down with the disgraced leader.
Zaven

Don't Tell the Heroes

Don't tell the heroes who sacrificed their everything to have a homeland. Let them rest in peace. As for us, the survivors, do we even need a homeland? Do we even care whether we are Christian, let alone Armenian Christian, Armenian Apostolic Christian, Armenian Apostolic Christian of the Holy See of Echmiadzin?

We don't deserve what our devoted ancestors sacrificed for.  Show me anything that's not corrupt in Armenian circles of power, in Armenia or in the Diaspora. Yes, we had had some Armenian "khent"s, but those were the real owners of the lands they were living on. Only those who know the value of a land, language, heritage, culture, history...

We have much more renters, tourists, merchants than owners of Armenianness. The profit-minded uprooteds will sell any "value" for a price. Nothing good can come from them.

Who cares who is the catholicos? Of which see, the patriarch, president, premier is. So why the calls for resignations, appointments, fair elections, just representations? 

The real change starts in me, in you, in the unit that forms the circles of our existence. Positive results come from dedicated minds only, not from merchants.

Catholicos Karekin II

If the accusations are proven to be true, the man has to be burned on a stake. As a follower of Christ and an elderly Armenian, I have no pity on the disgraced man.

Mark of Ownership?

Can anyone enlighten me as to why the letter "E" as in Etchmiadzin is above the altar of my church (St John) in Detroit? It wasn't there all these years. Is it all over the parishes and what do you make of it?

The Letter "E"

Sam,

This would be an opportune time for a clergyman to explain to us, in depth, the significance of the "E" on the interior and exterior of our churches.

I am surprised it was not there, high in the altar of St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in Detroit. The letter should be high in the altar in every Armenian church, including, of course, Apostolic Churches affiliated with the Cilician See.

I understand it signifies divinity. I am also told that it is the seventh letter of the Armenian Alphabet because of the biblical significance of number seven. The first letter--"A", I have been told stands for Asdouatz/God. The last letter in the original Armenian alphabet was "K" for Kristos.


 

The Letter "E"

"Thanks" to Vahe and Jirair regarding the meaning of the letter "E" (A) = Eyoutyoun on our churches.

To Organize, to Survive

To organize and to survive as an organization in any Diasporan setting one has to serve the local policies of that environment. As democratic, free and liberal your surroundings may profess, your organized group ought to serve "a higher purpose"; it should adjust to its immediate political agenda. You may live very free as an individual, say, in America, Lebanon, France, Syria, Iran...but your organized politics cannot profess to be far from existing atmosphere. In a nutshell, there is nooo Armenianness independent of U.S. policies in America, nor Lebanese in Lebanon...

Who is better organized, funded, accepted, tolerated, encouraged, adopted, praised...more than those who follow the demands of local politics? And if one thinks that Armenia is the only place where delegates and the elected serve mainly Armenian aspirations... sometimes countries are sold "en grosse" to regional politics.

So who remains independent? The one who knows that exposure serves no purpose, who prefers to stay humble, low-profile, incognito, with no colorful titles? For colorful titles serve only masters or are persecuted as dissidents.

Clean the Church

''If one thinks that Armenia is the only place where delegates and the elected serve mainly Armenian aspirations... sometimes countries are sold 'en grosse' to regional politics''. In this context, some high ranking clergy from Armenia serving in the diaspora are doing just that, playing politics. With the knowledge, order and approval of Karekin II, they are helping empty Armenia of its inhabitants for a price, no doubt. These are the God-fearing, patriotic clergy, who are going to pray for us, and lead our people.     

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