Interview With HIS HOLINESS ARAM I, CATHOLICOS OF THE GREAT HOUSE OF CILICIA

08-10-2011 13:16:02   |   |  Interviews
USA Armenian Life Magazine: Your Holiness, you have often underlined that the Diaspora is an equal partner with Armenia. Could you please elaborate on what basis you make such a statement? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: We have often outlined that the Armenian people are one with Armenia, Artsakh (Karabagh) and Diaspora. Therefore, the Diaspora and Artsakh are the extension of Armenia. In ordinary sense, the Diaspora is not a partner with Armenia. It is true that the Diaspora Armenian doesn’t live in Armenia, but considers Armenia — and must do so — his Homeland toward which he has both duties and rights. It is from this vintage point that we must look at Armenia-Diaspora co-operation. Initiatives that are based on ordinary and conditional settings can not, but well-studied and long-term plans can inject new quality into our co-operation and can solidify our nation’s internal unity and potential. USA Armenian Life Magazine: How can one rate the quality of relations between the Catholicosate of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon? And how can one define the nature of the ties between the Dioceses of both Sees? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: The co-operation between both Holy Sees — the Catholicosate of All Armenians and Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia is positive. Two committees are formed representing both Sees in regards to our church’s reform. It is necessary to continue this process. Issues that have jurisdictional nature that have been inherited from the past do exist. It is essential to address these issues with a spirit of realism; by taking into consideration our people’s and our communities’ internal conditions; by always upholding the indispensability of co-operation. We would also like to emphasize that today the spirit of brotherhood on all levels is prevalent in the relations and co-operation between both Sees. This spirit must be further developed for the benefit of our church, homeland and people. USA Armenian Life Magazine: In present and coming times, what is the mission of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in the life of the Armenian people? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: We have often focused on the Great House of Cilicia’s mission through our messages and publications. The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia considers itself a mission of faith and of service to our people. These two areas that are strongly tied with our Holy See’s life and work, compliment, enrich and complete each other. The mission of our See has its permanent priorities such as Christian and Armenian education; social services; youth; spreading of spiritual and moral values; pursuit of our national demands for justice, among others. Our See also takes into consideration evolutionary changes occurring in our people’s internal conditions and the resulting needs and expectations. Let’s not forget that we live in a constantly changing world. As a mission in service of people, the church must keep in touch with developments and related concerns in the life of its flock. USA Armenian Life Magazine: Recently, you have addressed a pontifical letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in which you have qualified its initiative to return certain confiscated religious properties to their rightful owners as being incomplete and unjust. In your opinion, what kind of steps Turkey needs to take in order to achieve comprehensive justice? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: Our demands from Turkey are clear. Turkey must recognize and make amends for the Genocide against the Armenian people perpetrated by Ottoman Turkey — the grandparents of Turkey’s leaders. According to international laws, if the genocide is a crime against humanity, then no matter how Turkey attempts to cover up the truth through diplomatic and other means, the genocide, as a historic fact, can not be condemned to oblivion. The Bible says that it is not possible to hide the light under a basket — the same applies to truth. For 97 years, our people not only remembered its martyrs but also demanded its rights. This is an eloquent testimony that the more years pass, the stronger our people’s demands for justice will grow. We have clarified to Turkish Prime Minister that justice has not been served for the Armenians. Our people will continue to demand justice from Turkey. USA Armenian Life Magazine: Do the Armenian youth continue to rally around the Armenian Apostolic Church with swelled ranks? Has the Catholicosate developed new bridges for communication and strengthening of ties with the youth? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: We have always given special importance to our youth underlining the fact that our youth are not only our future but also our present. The doors of our church, organizations and communities are wide open for our youth. Our youth have a message to deliver and accomplishments to perform in our collective life. We must trust our youth. They are aware of today’s conditions, challenges and ills of our world. Therefore, they can perform an important role in our life. Our structures have an urgent need for rejuvenation. The same people with unchanged ideas and practices can not contribute to our life’s further development and reorganization. Our life has a dire need for internal vitality; for new organizational approaches; and for new quality. In this regard, We consider our youth’s role fundamentally important. On the other hand, We expect our youth to treat our spiritual, moral and national values with a spirit of awareness. We have amply addressed these issues in Our book — “We Must Take the Church to the People.” USA Armenian Life Magazine: In contrast to Dioceses around the world belonging to the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, the Dioceses functioning under the umbrella of the Great House of Cilicia have always made relentless efforts and carried out large-scale work and created a sizeable network of Armenian schools in all corners of the Diaspora. Why has the Great House of Cilicia preferred to allocate large portions of its human and material resources to building our schools next to the churches, instead focusing only on the construction of churches? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: A little while ago, we have observed that the faith-based mission and service to the nation constitute a singular unit in our mission. This is not a theoretical idea. That’s the way our church has been throughout history and that’s the way it should be today. Religious education and Armenian education are not distant realities, but one entity with differing aspects. Armenian education is religious education and it is not possible to carry out religious education without Armenian education; in other words, our religious and moral values can not be removed from national values and vice-versa. This is the identity of our church. This is the Armenian identity. Therefore, the coexistence of both the church and the school is not coincidental. The school is the continuation of the church. That’s the way it has to be in its internal environment and in terms of our mission in our flock’s development both as human beings and as Armenians. I hope this makes it amply clear as to why the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia has given a special importance to Armenian schools, highlighting the fact that the church and school constitute one and integral entity. USA Armenian Life Magazine: In your opinion, how can Diaspora’s current state of organization be optimized? Do you think the current quasi-organizational situation and the absence of internal harmony; and the inexistence of elective leadership can be free from exploitation by Turkey and other anti-Armenian forces? What kind of solution do you propose? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: It is not easy to have the Diaspora undergo reorganizational process because today obviously exist three Diasporas — the classic Diaspora, Diaspora in the former Soviet space and the Diaspora that is created as a result of emigration from Armenia. Therefore, today, the Diaspora represents a colorful picture. The creation of intimacy, co-operation and harmony among these three Diasporas is a priority. The church and the community-based organizations have an important role to perform in this process. They must play the role of a bridge, and become meeting places where all the children of our people — in tangible terms, shall feel as belonging to the same nation, same culture and Homeland. Even if the creation of harmony within the Diaspora is a long process, we consider as urgent and primary the co-operation regarding issues affecting our people, our homeland or a given community. Just like we have emphasized in our message in Armenia — we must develop a pan-Armenian thinking. Co-operation can contribute greatly to the development of pan-Armenian thinking. USA Armenian Life Magazine: The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia has always been an advocate of the Armenian Church and people’s well-being. Is it possible to elaborate in practical terms some of the efforts made in this regard? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: A while ago, when we were talking about the mission of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, we described its religious and national aspects. That’s what should be the mission of our church. It should become not only the advocate but also the initiator, the leader in all of the efforts that further the unity of our people; the strengthening of our Homeland; the flourishing of our culture; and the pursuit of national aspirations and rights. In other words, our church as a national institution, must be the tracer (chaser) of our nation’s and Homeland’s collective interests — naturally, as spiritual structure that is guided by its unique and independent approach to these issues. Let’s not forget that similar to other organizations that function in our life the church is not solely of religious nature. Such characterization of the church is unacceptable. The Church is a home of faith; It is the presence of God in our lives; It is the voice of God, and the clergy are the ambassadors of Christ. It is with such self-awareness that the church must function and become the advocate of truth in our lives, and certainly not remain silent in the face of falsehood. It must be the defender of the poor, and not the supporter the rich and the exploiter. It must be the evangelist of justice, and not an indifferent bystander of injustice. Didn’t Jesus Christ side with the underprivileged? USA Armenian Life Magazine: Recently, a very important conference dedicated to Western Armenian language took place in the Bikfaya Seminary in Lebanon under your High Auspices and organized by the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. According to several media reports, ample ideas were expressed during the three-day conference and among them was the unified decision by the conference to create a body that would preserve the Western Armenian language. The idea is wonderful, but what practical steps and with what kind of mandate will the body be able to take the necessary steps? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: We have discussed comprehensively the outcome of, and the media have given extensive coverage to the conference on Western Armenian language which took place in the Catholicosate, through our initiative and sponsorship. We would not like to repeat the discussions. But we would like to underline a few important points. A) The Western Armenian language is in crisis. If we do not take appropriate measures to prevent the escalation of the crisis, we can lose our language in a short time. It was based on this fact that we have organized the conference. The conference emphasized the imperative of taking urgent and effective measures; B) As a practical step, the conference proposed the formation of a Western Armenian Language Preservation Council through the initiative of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, with the participation of individuals knowledgeable in Armenian studies who can further the cause. We will conduct consultations on the makeup of the Council after the completion of our Pontifical Visit to the Prelacy of Western United States; C) Organizing conferences and proposing ideas are not enough. It is essential that we implement the ideas and execute the developed plans within our communities. It is in this area that we fail. The preservation of Western Armenian language must be carried out on local levels — within the churches, schools, homes, and clubs. Therefore our work has to be collective and an awareness of responsibility shouldered by all. USA Armenian Life Magazine: Has the conference on Western Armenian language identified the role of the Diaspora Armenian media, and did it underline the importance of employing clear, accurate and crystallized Western Armenian in the media that features enhanced quality for the benefit of perpetuation of Western Armenian language? Has there been a discussion on finding the means to assist the Diaspora Armenian press both morally and financially so that the media does not fail in its duties? HIS HOLINESS ARAM I: The press occupied an important place in the conference. Many reports were presented and all participants greatly emphasized the role of the media in the preservation of Western Armenian language and in the dissemination of cultural values, and of the maintenance of the Armenian identity as a whole. We consider the media as a mission. It is with such awareness that media managers should carry out their mission and it is with equal devotion that the children of our nation should support the Armenian media.
 


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