09/25/2018, 11.19
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Yerevan, Katolikos Karekin II resigns

by Vladimir Rozanskij

It is the first time in the history of the Armenian Church. Apparent pressures from new leadership which emerged from the "velvet revolution". Karekin is deemed too friendly to former President Serž Sargsyan. Some monks accuse him of having manipulated the relic of Longinus' spear, the one that pierced Christ's heart on the Cross.

Yerevan (AsiaNews) - An agreement has been reached between the Katolikos (Patriarch) of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II, and the new leaders of the country, in power after the "velvet revolution" of last May, under which Karekin II will resign. The Armenian newspaper Zhokhovurd announced this on September 20, suggesting that the Katolikos would leave officially for health reasons.

Commenting on the news, the priest Vagram Melikyan, director of the communications sector of the Armenian Church at the Echmjadzin office, said that "we believe it is necessary to note that during the 27 years of history of the 3rd Armenian republic, all governments without exception have expressed due respect to the National Apostolic Church and its Katolikos, appreciating its work in favor of all the Armenians and the development of our State, preserving unity and national solidarity ". The statement suggests the disappointment of the ecclesiastical hierarchy for the protests and criticisms of recent months.

Last July 6, in fact, the residence of Karekin was besieged by a protest demonstration, organized by the movement gathered under the slogan "A new Armenia, a new patriarch", led by the leader Karen Petrosyan. This is a group linked to the new prime minister Nicol Pashinian, who last spring managed to involve the population in overthrowing the old ruling class. The Katolikos was in turn accused of connivance with "discarded" politicians.

Born in 1951, named Nersisyan Grigorevich Kritch, the Katolikos was ordained to the priesthood in 1972, in the middle of the Soviet era. After a period of study and service in Germany, Karekin returned to the great monastery of Echmjadzin, the Armenian "Vatican" on the threshold of the capital of Yerevan, before completing his studies at the Orthodox Theological Academy in Moscow. The Armenian Church is not in communion with the Orthodox, due to the ancient theological divisions of the Council of Chalcedon, but the relations were based on common loyalty to the Soviet regime.

Until 1999 he remained the vicar of his predecessor, the Katolikos Karekin I, to become the 132rd patriarch of the Armenians at his death (the Armenian Church is one of the oldest in the world). In the turbulent events of the Armenian politics of the post-Soviet years, the new Katolikos tried several times to propose itself with initiatives of national pacification.

The accusations against him mainly concern speculation that several treasures of the Armenian Church were expatriated. Such accusations would have been raised by some priests of the Church itself, like the hieromonk Koriun Arakelyan, one of the inspirers of the protests. The most infamous accusations is that a part of Longinus's spear was taken to give to a Russian mayor, a friend of Karekin. According to tradition, the lance of the centurion who penetrated the side of Christ on the Cross was brought by the Apostle Thaddeus as a gift to the Christians of Armenia.

Legend has it that those who own the Longinus's spear, called Geghard as the monastery in which it was kept, are destined to rule the world. The lance is exhibited today in the Museum of Echmjadzin, but protesters want it examined to verify its integrity. Former President and Prime minister Serž Sargsyan, to whom the Katolikos was very close, was charged with suffering from the delirium of omnipotence. In the first case in the history of the Armenian Church, to pacify the ecclesiastical world and the same society, Patriarch Karekin, would have accepted to resign despite his not very advanced age.

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