Message of His Holiness Karekin II
On the Occasion of the Synod of Bishops
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Information Services 24 September, 2013
The Message of His Holiness KAREKIN II
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
On the Occasion of the Synod of Bishops
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
September 24, 2013
Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Armenia,
Your Holiness my dear brother in Christ,
With a joyful spirit I welcome you in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Today is a significant day for all of us. For the first time, a Synod of the bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church is convening with the participation of the colleges of bishops of both the Catholicosate of All Armenians and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. We believe that this gathering will be a new phase in the course towards the fruitful realization of the mission of our Church.
Giving thanks and glory to the Lord, for with the convening of this Synod, He is granting us the grace to work in a fraternal spirit with ARAM I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and the entire Episcopal college of our Church, for the sake of strengthening and enlightening the horizons of our ecclesial life. We are pleased that His Excellency Mr. Serj Sargsyan, President of the Republic of Armenia, honors the Synod of Bishops with his presence, assuring once again his willingness to assist the mission of the Armenian Church and the fruitful task of cultivating church-state relations. We also welcome the participation at this Synod of His Eminence Archbishop Aram Ateshian, vicar of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Dear fathers, today we have gathered in one place having as our vision a reformation in our spiritual-ecclesial life. This Synod of Bishops plays an important role in the realization of this goal, particularly in the task of the study and formulation of definitions and guidelines for ritualistic, canonical and doctrinal issues. The bishop is the steward of God, says the holy Apostle Paul (Titus 1:7), and “he cares for the Church, which is the city of God,” adds the great theologian St. Gregory of Datev. With this sense of responsibility this Bishops Synod will discuss and present decisions with regard to the chief agenda items: the ritual of the sacrament of Baptism, the canonization of saints, and in this context, the canonization of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Joint committees of the Catholicosate of All Armenians and of the Great House of Cilicia have conducted ongoing work with the intent of creating uniformity in the rite of Baptism and in the establishment of rules for the canonization of saints. In an official status they have studied the historical foundations, the present circumstances and demands of the times, as well as the expectations of our faithful flock. We express our deep appreciation to the chairmen and members of the Canonical, Canonization of Saints, and Liturgical Committees for their ardent work. The Synod will also address other troubling problems and challenges facing our Holy Church.
The Church being the mystical body of Christ and the gathering of the faithful is also a structure operating in time. In the carrying out of its mission from time to time the Church feels the need for reform and improvement. Historically, the various difficult situations created for our people, including the partitioning of our Homeland, complicated political circumstances, catastrophes, massacres, the Genocide, and the atheistic Soviet period, did not allow the necessary opportunities for dealing with issues of ecclesial reform. Our Church’s Hierarchical Sees, being geographically located within different governmental frameworks, were often ruled by different and sometimes compulsory constitutions. The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia and the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Constantinople, falling under Ottoman domination, were ruled by the provisions of the National Constitution, while the Catholicosate of All Armenians, under the authority of the Russian Empire, was governed by the Polozhenia. The life and administrative activity of our Church was influenced by these conditions, which often gave way to divergences and confusion. In such an unfavorable state of affairs plans for reform, which were imperative for our Church for more than a century, were either postponed or addressed only in part. During the years of Soviet rule the strained relations created between the Catholicosate of All Armenians and the Great House of Cilicia, which resulted in division and administrative split, likewise brought about a delay on the road to reform. Today our Homeland is independent and the Church has great possibilities to operate freely and make improvements in order to overcome the deep-rooted problems of the entire church.
Thanks be to God that today our Holy Apostolic Church in the Diaspora is experiencing a renaissance. Our people’s spiritual-ecclesial life is budding once again and is blossoming with the light of the Gospel, being securely anchored on the faith of the Fathers, the sacred tradition, religious understanding and knowledge. We have made achievements in the mission of preparing a new generation of learned clergy, the building of churches, the strengthening of the preaching of the Gospel, Christian education and instruction. Alongside these successes we have many unresolved issues and questions in our internal ecclesial life, which are the consequence of the absence of laws and constitutions based on ecclesial rights and the canonical principles of our Church, which often give way to outward expressions of misunderstandings and arbitrariness, rendering the desired progress of our ecclesial life more difficult and complicated. In order to regulate the activity and life of our Holy Church, it is necessary to canonically activate the pan ecclesial – synodical bodies, and to create a constitution to define the activity and mutual relationship of the ecclesial structures and the rights of the Hierarchical Sees. Reforms in the liturgical ritualistic area, in the fields of spiritual education and Christian instruction, the utilization of successful pedagogical methods, the dissemination of the works of our fathers, the producing of new theological works, which take a modern approach while remaining authentic to the teachings of our Church, will raise our Church’s life to a new height. In order for our Church to keep pace with the times and to secure a clear direction for our people, it is necessary to cultivate and to establish a social doctrine to address social issues, ethical questions, geopolitical developments, scientific advancements, globalization and other related phenomena. We announce that with this purpose in mind months ago we established a separate department of social doctrine in the Mother See. To the list of issues challenging the Church we want to also mention that there continues to be a serious demand for the preparation of a new generation of clergy, the building of churches, the restoration of our most ancient monasteries and churches, and the organizing of monastic life. In order to accomplish all of this the united efforts of our nation are required, from the believer and the pastor, all the way to the chief shepherd.
With its mission of the salvation of souls and preservation of the nation, the role of our Holy Apostolic Church has been exceptional in the life of our people. This has been witnessed to by history and today is justifiably spelled out in the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia. The divinely imparted and internally secure calling of our Church, tested throughout the centuries, has kept alive in the hearts of our people the love of freedom and the vision of nationhood for the homeland in the face of many dangers and troubles. “For the faith” and “for the homeland” have defined our identity and perseverance. With this knowledge and spirit, as in the past, likewise today as well, our Church in every possible way participates in the sacred work of nation building. Today together with the processes of reform, there are still concerns and difficulties in the homeland. Our people living in Armenia continue to live in conditions of blockade and fragile peace. They have not yet overcome poverty and unemployment, and emigration is worrisome. In the face of these imperatives we have our responsibility and obligation, to gather our people together and support the government in its difficult task of solving the nation’s problems. With the greater organization of our ecclesial structures and united efforts our Church life will become stronger and we will be able to fortify our people living in Armenia and in Diaspora, for the sake of our land’s progress and development, for the overcoming of economic and social difficulties and in facing the imperatives raised in the Diaspora. With a united Armenia-Diaspora, our Homeland will be strong, secure, and invulnerable, and there will be a better defended, self-confident and alive Armenian Diaspora. With a united Armenia-Diaspora, our efforts in the international arena will be fruitful for the recognition of the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh and the condemnation of the Armenian Genocide. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide we will make a powerful call to the entire world for justice and reparations. With a united Armenia-Diaspora we will be empowered to face the temptations, difficulties and troubles plaguing our nation, such as exist today in the life of our people in the Middle East, particularly in Syria. As a consequence of the continuing conflict, the Armenians of Syria are experiencing great suffering and heavy losses. We again pray to the Lord for peace and exhort our diocesan primates together with our faithful to support and assist by every possible means our brothers and sisters in Syria, and encourage them in the overcoming of their difficulties.
With the good fruits of our unity we will keep prosperous and vibrant the life of the Armenian diaspora, whose problems many of you are well aware of and which are a source of personal worry. Today we often speak about the weakening of the Armenian school, the decrease in the knowledge of the Armenian language, the decreasing involvement of the youth in spiritual and national life, all of which are frightening signs of the path to assimilation. Today we have the encouraging realities of our independent nationhood on one hand, and on the other hand the example of the children of the genocide survivors in the Diaspora, who as respected and trustworthy citizens, have created spiritual and national structures and institutions with their hard work. We will attempt to make our national-ecclesial life to be a more familiar place for our children. Our Church with greater success will utilize those possibilities in the work of keeping our people alive with faith, national understanding and zeal for the mother tongue. Having spiritual values well integrated into the national life, our people, especially the youth, will find the answers to their questions, their sure faithful path to God, their happiness, and they will continue to live with a sense of national identity, multiplying their strengths and dreams with the power derived from our free Homeland.
The twenty-first century with its scientific technological progress and achievements also brings with it a decline of moral values, a destruction of the true understanding of human rights, a deterioration of national identity and family values, from which, unfortunately, our national life has not been spared, both in the Homeland as well as in the Diaspora. We must be able to address with our people this century’s lack of spirituality, the dangers of secularism and conformity, and we must especially keep alive in our youth a love and confidence towards our Holy Church, and a zeal towards the holy faith of our fathers and our national traditions. Our Church, as the abundant fountain of God’s graces must irrigate the fields of our life with a spiritual life, renew and brighten the pious souls of our people and keep firm the values of justice, truth, and philanthropy, by which our entire Armenian life will prosper and will fill our land with every good thing and blessing. Our mission is one: to shepherd and lead our people toward salvation, keeping them in the love of God and nation, so that we may live and persevere as the Lord’s own, chosen people and Church.
Dear fathers, consider those problems and priorities in the ecclesial area and national life, which we tried to single out, and the related decisions and actions will lead our Church with God’s blessing in its fully inspired and fruitful mission. Our people are with us with their unswerving devotion toward the Armenian Church and their sincere hopes for the strengthening of the Church. Our efforts will echo in the souls of our faithful children and they will have an eager readiness to cooperate.
We pray to God for the leadership of the Holy Spirit upon the work of the Synod of Bishops and share with you the apostle’s exhortation, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable… think about these things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
May the Lord grant peace to the world and to the peoples who bear the pain and suffering of war; may He keep undisturbed under His good watchful eye Armenia and Artsakh and our people in Diaspora, and keep unshaken our Holy Apostolic Church with its Hierarchical Sees and clergy, granting spiritual growth and blessings.
May our labors be crowned with progress and might.