The Brotherhood of the Armenian Patriarchal See of Istanbul (Constantinople)
The annual assembly of the Brotherhood of the Armenian Patriarchal See of Istanbul was held on 15 May 2001 at the Patriarchal residence, following Matins in the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator on Knali Island.
His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul and All Turkey, presided over the assembly, which included Their Graces Archbishop Sahan Sivacyan, Archbishop Karekin Bekjian, Bishop Aram Ateshian, the Revd. Hieromonks Sahag Mashalian, Yeghishe Uchkunian, and the Revd. Dr. Krikor Damadian as Assembly’s registrar. The Revd. Hieromonks Bsak Hatabian (London) and Zakeos Ohanyan (Rome) were absent.
The day-long conclave examined and discussed a host of general issues concerning the Armenian Church, and particularly, issues relevant to the Brotherhood of the Patriarchal See of Istanbul. Following deliberations on each item on the agenda and a wide exchange of views, the clergy participating in the meeting unanimously decided to publish the following Communiqué:
1. The Brotherhood of the Armenian Patriarchal See of Istanbul considers the dawn of the Third Millennium of Christ’s Holy Nativity and the 1700th Anniversary of official recognition of the Armenian Church an opportunity to renew its Holy Vows before God and our people, firmly grounded in the Sacred Scriptures, the teachings of the Holy Fathers, and the Holy Tradition of the Armenian Church. The Brotherhood incessantly seeks the mercy and blessings of the Most Holy and Triune God; with the intercession of the Holy Virgin Mother-of-God, the Holy Apostles, St. Gregory the Illuminator, the Holy Translators, the Holy Fathers of the Church, the Holy Hermits and the Holy Martyrs, who devoted their lives to the love of our Saviour Jesus Christ, sometimes as confessors and sometimes through martyrdom.
2. The Brotherhood is the faithful guardian of the mission of the See of Constantinople, which is fully devoted to the spiritual edification of our people, and to the centuries-old spiritual teaching centres of the monastery of Amrdolu (Baghesh/Bitlis), the monastery of the Holy Cross (Armash, Nicomedia/Izmit) and the former patriarchal seminary of the Holy Cross (Chrysopolis/Uskudar). The Brotherhood is the loyal protector of the Patriarchal See’s time-honoured hierarchical prerogatives and autonomy, and especially the rich spiritual-cultural legacy of the See’s most luminous Patriarchs: Hovakim of Bursa, Hovhanness of Baghesh, Hagop of Zimmar, Zacharia of Kaghzman, Mkrtich of Van, Nersess Varjabetian, Khoren Ashekian, Malachia Ormanian, Yeghishe Turian, Karekin of Trabizon and Shnork Kalustian.
3. In the unity of the Armenian Church, the Brotherhood of the Armenian Patriarchal See of Istanbul acknowledges the Holy See of the Patron Saint of the Armenians’ Faith, Gregory the Illuminator, in Etchmiadzin as the pre-eminent Mother See of the Armenian Church. The Brotherhood continually prays to God for the safety, renewal and spiritual edification of the Mother See, and especially for the life and salvation of the soul of its incumbent, the Catholicos of All Armenians. With the same fraternal love, the Brotherhood prays for the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia and the Holy Apostolic See of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and for the mission and longevity of their grace-filled Hierarchs. The Brotherhood is hopeful that all outstanding issues among the Hierarchical Sees of the Armenian Church will be resolved in due course, so that the Armenian Apostolic Church, besides doctrinal and liturgical unity, will also achieve complete cooperation in all aspects of church life for the consolation of our people.
4. The Brotherhood recognizes that none of the four Hierarchs of the Armenian Holy Sees is infallible, only the Holy Church of Christ is infallible. Therefore, any issue that concerns the Church-at-large – whether theological, doctrinal, canonical or disciplinary – must necessarily pass the scrutiny of a commission of experts before finally being resolved in the College of Bishops, which, in accordance with ancient universal tradition, is the supreme spiritual body in the Church for such matters.
5. The Brotherhood expresses serious concern over the process of preparation of a new Book of Canon Law for the Armenian Church and the course it has already taken, inasmuch as the comments, corrections and suggestions proferred by our Patriarchal See regarding the draft text of the Canons appear to have received only partial consideration. The 540-year-old Patriarchal See — and her spiritual servants — through her internal religious-ecclesiastical, administrative, financial and other activities is accountable only to the Lord God and to the faithful within the jurisdictional boundaries of the Patriarchal See. As for spiritual issues that interest the entire Armenian Church, the Patriarchal See respects the leadership of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and her canonical organs, under the presidency of the Catholicos of All Armenians. Nevertheless, as one of the four hierarchical centres of the Armenian Church, the Patriarchal See of Istanbul maintains the right and duty to express its opinion on the same issues.
6. The Brotherhood expresses serious concern over the uncertain status accorded to the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Mother See of Etchmiadzin, concerning its canonical-juridical boundaries and the process of its composition. Inasmuch as a new constitution does not yet exist regulating the formation of the Supreme Spiritual Council, the 1945 Constitution automatically must be considered as still being in force and adherence to its provisions a necessity. If currently it is not possible to convene a National Ecclesiastical Assembly, then possibly the Supreme Spiritual Council should be formed by the College of Bishops, selected by a secret ballot of the bishops alone. consisting of only bishops. As the current Supreme Spiritual Council posseses only a consultative status it cannot properly constitute a court of inquiry dispensing disciplinary verdicts.
7. The Brotherhood expresses serious concern over the news spread by the “Mir Religii” newspaper, according to which “The Association of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Moscow” has declared that it has left the Diocese of Russia and Nor Nakhichevan and “considers the personal decisions and instructions of Catholicos Karekin II as illegal.” On the other hand, the same “Association” has announced that it operates under “the centuries-old traditions and rules” of the Armenian Church, and as such, is subject only to the supreme body of the Church, the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.” These statements appear to be contradictory since the president of the National Assembly is the Catholicos of All Armenians himself. Therefore, our Brotherhood rejects such an announcement as unacceptable, and express deep grief that unresolved issues in one of the largest dioceses of the Armenian Church have come to this stage. Our Brotherhood eagerly desires that the efforts to resolve this issue will be guided by Christian and ecclesiastical-canonical principles and that personal passions will not play a role in the process.
Divan of the Patriarchate