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Trouble in Russian Diocese of Armenian Church

TROUBLE IN THE RUSSIAN DIOCESE OF ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH COULD BECOME SCHISM

Mir religii, 14 May 2001

On Sunday, 13 May, during divine worship in the Moscow church of the Holy Ascension, Archbishop Tiran Kiuregian of the Novo-Nakhichevan and Russian diocese of the Armenian
Apostolic church announced the departure of the Association of Armenian Apostolic Churches of Moscow from the
jurisdiction of Patriarch Catholicos Garegin II of all-Armenians. The reason for this was the decision of the patriarch naming a new ruling bishop for Moscow, who turns out to be the patriarch’s own brother.

Archbishop Tiran Kiuregian has headed the Novo-Nakhichevan and Russian diocese of the Armenian Apostolic church over the course of almost 25 years. However on 11 April of this year Patriarch Catholicos Garegin II named a new administrator for the diocese, Archimandrite Ezras Nersesian, Garegin’s own brother.

As the Kommersant newspaper reports in its issue for 14 May, the Moscow Armenian church community has been split into two parts; some of its members support the patriarch’s decision removing Archbishop Tiran while others decisively oppose it.

The real subtext of the intrachurch conflict are questions about the degree of autonomy for the diocese and the disbursement by the foundation for the support of construction in Moscow of a cathedral church of the Holy Cross, whose head is Archbishop Tiran Kiuregian. According to the plan for construction of
the cathedral and cultural-educational center which was established by the government of Moscow, the foundation is responsible for the collection of funds and the immediate
supervision of the construction of the church. It can easily be understood why it was Moscow that the patriarch chose as the new place of ministry for his brother, who until recently was the rector of the church in St. Petersburg.

Addressing yesterday the parishioners of the church of the Holy Ascension with his announcement of departure of the Association of the Armenian Apostolic Churches of Moscow
from under the jursidiction of the diocese and catholicos, Archbishop Tiran accused the patriarch and Archimandrite Ezras of
subjecting him to restrictions over the course of the past seven months up to the point of prohibiting public statements. On this basis the archbishop declared that he refuses to submit to the catholicos and archimandrite and he forbids the administrator of the diocese from performing any actions in Moscow
churches other than praying as a parishioner. In his turn, Archimandrite Ezras declared that the current
incident does not signify that a schism has occurred within the Armenian Apostolic church, since the Association of Armenian Apostolic Churches of Moscow still recognizes itself
as under the jurisdiction of the supreme body of church authority, the national church council. At the same time he characterized
what has happened as criminal arbitrariness with far-reaching consequences.

In the words of Archbishop Tiran, he is prepared for the possibility he may be excommunicated from the church and he suggests that this may happen in the near future, but he does
not intend to submit to the catholicos whose authority he no longer recognizes. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 May 2001)

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