The Borgias of Etchmiadzin

Arch. Kchoyan (left) received a pistol from Serzh Sarkisian when he was prime minister

BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN

If it weren’t for the Resurrection and the Ascension, Jesus Christ would be rolling in his grave at the sight of one of his servants, a high-ranking cleric at Etchmiadzin, driving around town and meeting his flock in a Bentley.

Several weeks ago, the press in Armenia was abuzz with reports that Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan, the Vicar of the Ararat Diocese, which includes Yerevan and the portion of the Ararat province, had received a Bentley. The vehicle, valued at $180,000 to $280,000 was, according to the esteemed archbishop, a gift from one of his “godsons.”

When “168 Zham,” a Yerevan-based publication broke the news last month, Kchoyan told the paper to not meddle in his private life and on Wednesday shrugged off criticism of his expensive wheels, telling RFE/RL that he doesn’t “take that seriously,” and arrogantly asking “Should I have renounced the gift?”

On the heels of the Bentley revelation came reports from Hetq.am, a popular Armenian blog, that in 2007 Kchoyan received a pistol from then Prime Minister, Serzh Sarkisian. His spokeswoman reportedly told Hetq that he does not carry around the weapon

“In all countries, weapons are presented to all those who are appreciated,” Kchoyan told RFE/RL. “A weapon is [given as] appreciation, not for some other purpose.”

While His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians has been defrocking priests and archbishops left and right for violating “codes of conduct,” he has yet to offer an opinion, or more fitting in this case, a reprimand to Kchoyan, who has been linked closely to Sarkisian and his Republican Party.

While calls for reforms have been aplenty since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Armenian Church should have reformed and not fallen prey to the same oligarchic standards that have become commonplace for Armenia’s ruling elite.

Armenia has seen a rise in the practice of religion since independence and people place a high degree of respect to clerics. So, for a church leader to drive around town in a Bentley when the poverty rate in Armenia is not only in double-digits by exceeds 34 percent is nothing but blasphemy. Archbishop Kchoyan’s reckless disregard and attitude is even more unacceptable due to his position in the Armenian Church.

On the surface it appears that our esteemed Archbishop Kchoyan has committed at least three of the seven deadly sins: pride, gluttony and greed.

With the famed Borgias in vogue, thanks to an opulent new series starring Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons on Showtime, which premiered to higher-than-expected ratings last Sunday, it is difficult to not draw parallels with Rodrigo Borgia, who through palace intrigue became Pope Alexander VI, despite the fact that he had children and a wife and was known as one of the most bloody religious leaders in history.

The Archbishop Kchoyan episode raises interesting questions, which the press in Armenia has begun to probe. How rooted are these violations of basic Christian codes in the Armenian Church? What else is going on behind the closed doors of the Church? (i.e. how much wealth are these clerics amassing at the expense of the parishioners and at what cost?)

As a nation that prides itself as being the first to adopt Christianity as the official state religion, we must be more demanding of our clerics, be they in Armenia or elsewhere, to behave more humbly and shepherd their followers in accordance to Scripture.

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40 Comments

  1. Halo said:

    First a pistol, now a Bentley… what’s the next gift, an underground Meth lab? They should make a movie about this titled “Scarface in Etchmiadsin”.

  2. MK said:

    He is an absolute disgrace to our church and must be defrocked ASAP

  3. Edward Demian said:

    Ah, the eternal dilema. Celibate priests with their pecadillos, and a married clergy with its familial needs, ambitions and temptations. What to choose?

  4. sam said:

    well the gift is fine nothing is wrong with it however beeing around the 34 percent of poor armenians he could of sold it let say to somme wealthy russian buisness man and used that money to help the elderly and widows who are struggling to have food on the table rather than driving that fancy car like cazanova around their towns and villages that most of it don’t even have well maintained roads

  5. sam said:

    in the picture mr. sarkissian looks like just the 3rd archbishop he might change his minde since levon terbedrossian admited he is true christian

    • Lav said:

      sam says:
      April 6, 2011 at 7:56 pmin the picture mr. sarkissian looks like just the 3rd archbishop he might change his minde since levon terbedrossian admited he is true christian

      THAT IS SO WELL SAID !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. John K. said:

    Just looking at the picture you get an impression, the esteemed vicar could be an evil character in one of Armenian gangster serials. Take your pick. They are so abundant…

  7. AE said:

    Bravo Ara! I commend your courage to raise a taboo issue in the Armenian community! This of course is the topic of accountability for our church leadership! A Bently! A gun! And 900,000-1,000,000 of our fellow Armenians suffering in deep poverty? Where are the voices of outrage and protest from our beloved church leaders here in Los Angeles? Christian values? Give me a break!

  8. kesariatsi said:

    Every self respecting Armenian Christian who takes pride in his/her culture should protest every way possible against this travesty. The local branches/ churches, diocese ( both western and eastern US) of the Armenian church that are part of the Echmiadzin Catolicosate should be a fair game to protest front of .
    Echmiadzin, the Catolicos and whoever is in charge should hear the voice of the people… they are all accountable to our people… they are not only to milk the Armenian faithful and take advantage of our love for our homeland and church.
    rise up people… Arach…….arach…arach….

  9. Levon Lokmanian said:

    Don’t blame him.It’s a gift.What you expect him to do.

    • anon said:

      he could try and do an honorable thing like sell it, buy a used bycyle for transport and and give the money to the many of thusands of needy armenians but then there is no honor among thieves so he and his cronies are never likely to do that

  10. Anonymous said:

    “In all countries, weapons are presented to all those who are appreciated”: No they are not, Archbishop…

  11. Joe said:

    Most people in Armenia know that His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians, has a child. Church is corrupt and bankrupt in Armenia. Kchoyan, Karekin and their gang are called “mafioso” by the people. They are just another oligarchic group, like Lfik Samo, Dodi Gago, Nemec Rubo, Muk, Tsaghik Rubo, Burnash, Jraghaci Levik or whatever the hell his name is, and other “esteemed” robber barons of Armenia. God help us, or should I say – God save is from your servants!

    • anon said:

      Joe – from what ive heard many of the so called celibate priests have illegitimate children, inspiration and leadership starts at the top and works its way down, does it not. you are right they are there own mafioso with godfather Karen II issuing directions and leading the way of coruption, what chance us normal people? no chance

  12. Truth said:

    Shameful behavior. Nothing against having weapon and being protect but such an expensive car? Where most families are not able to send there kid’s to school an so on .. I can not still understand why are clerics don´t try to live like the rest of folk? A part of Church and officials ( including so called parliamentarians and ministers) have such high expending, as if Armenia were the riches country of the world. Car, secretary, first class filths, staying in most expansive hotels and so on..

    But let be honest,is “Antelias” much different? The one who looted the richness of Armenian community of Isfahan and India and did build palaces in Antelias, neglecting the poverty in our only home land!

  13. Paul said:

    Don’t forget he’s from arap country’s,for them is money everything,read the arap other way means money.so we all knew before who it was Archbishop Kchoyan,nothing is new!!! we all know what Archbishop did and still doing it. like American’s knew all about Clinton’s.he had all his life abuse his chair and had sex with his employees.and still millions,

  14. arziv said:

    If he is a true christian he should have no hesitation to ” trade in ” his Bently for a spirited healthy donkey.

  15. Z said:

    This a a true disgrace. Weapons are for killing, I priest cannot kill. A priest cannot swim in luxury. He should be fired, but all is not over for him, maybe he can start a gangster’s career.

    • Grish Begian said:

      Well, may be the pistol was loaded with silver bullets to kill Etchmiadzin vampires!!

  16. Manvel said:

    This is not a way our leaders should be acting. They must rule by example. This is just another example how we are failing as a nation. We need positive changes NOW!! Otherwise we are headed for destruction. And that is exactly what the Turk wants. Think about it.

  17. anon said:

    if he must keep the bentley perhaps he cud start using it as an extra bus servicce and pick up people waiting in the rain for buses and taxies sort of giving back to the community, he cud do mobile blessing too the options are endless. outragous suggestion? its outragous that he’s completely lost touch with his vows and calling and outrageous that the people have to watch the arogance of the man driving his chariot of fire…..and we all know where fires lead to – have a safe trip archbishop

  18. Serge said:

    you shouldn’t be surprised about Kchoyan, churches are corrupt every where and the Armenian church is one of the most corrupt. In the last election Kchoyan came out with his entourage stating that people should support the Republican party. His reasoning was that the Republicans had been good to the church, not good to the people or the country but the church. It is not the first time the Armenian church has betrayed the Armenian nation for it’s own interest and greed. No wonder people are turning their back to it.

  19. Sevag said:

    2010 Bentley: $250,000.
    2010 Mercedes E Class: $50,000
    How much good could he have done in Armenia, to the church and the community, with the $200,000 difference, while still cruising around in a more than luxurious brand new sedan? This level of greed is inexcusable.

  20. Khach said:

    Ok this is nothing to be upset about. When the pope gets driven in a 5million dollar pope mobil it’s ok. When he lives in one of the richest countries the Vatican it’s ok. When narco and petro dollars fund the Catholic church it’s ok. When the archbishop of NYC drinks rare scotches in the most expensive pubs of New York it’s ok. When Dale Lama own his own private jet it’s ok. Stop this. Just stop.

    • HAY ENK MENK said:

      Hmmmm? are you part of the gang? Shame on you. only a classical SRIKA can think like you.
      No wonder so many turn to all sorts of sects in their quest for spiritual salvation. Armenian nation should take back whats left of their Apostolic/Grigorian church before it becomes a absolute.
      Shame on all of us first, then so called leaders of the nation and the church. People need to protest starting from the very local brunch of the church they happen to attend every way possible. IF the Garegin Catolicos doesn’t defrock this common criminal within next few days he should be subject to the curse of our people and millions of marthures that gave their very life for their church and culture. SHAME SHAME SHAME

  21. arx said:

    Well, he is not the only one. Our Vehapar wants take care of the finances of the churches in France and Switzerland. He wanted to send a vartabed to Geneva in order to get the control but they did not accept him. They said that, we are a small community and don’t need him. He thinks European Armenians are idiots and can not understand the real issue. Same thing is happening in France now. They don,t want Etchmiazin’s control of their money. This is hard to believe. These people can not represent our church and be the head of it. People need to protest this thieves and do everything in order to change this vicious act. It is time to act not only to talk.

    • manooshag said:

      Our Haiastan is bravely seeking to reach their 20th year… a fledgling nation who needs exemplary leaders in government, in their church, their police and more… all these are stealing for all these are self-seekers… all these holding offices are of the communist mentality – and the hell with our homeland, Haiastan.

  22. Vahe M. said:

    Wow how times have changed, I agree with Arziv, if I’m not mistaken when Jesses interred Jerusalem the donkey was lend to him by a rich Samaritan merchant just for that day only, and olive branch in his hand not a gun, the rest of the time they were on foot. I wish some time we could probe the report more to see what did he do to deserve this expensive car did he preformed miracles to his followers like jesses.

  23. Souren said:

    Well they say a fish rots from the head.
    The Catholicos, cavorting with Louise Simon of the AGBU is a fine example to follow.
    He is the biggest oligarch and would put the Borgias to shame.
    Unfortunately the “believers” (especially those in the USA) blindly worship him and keep him and his cronies in power.

  24. Vatche Dakessian said:

    Authority, responsibility and accountability are the key issues related to the administrative, regulatory and financial structure of the Armenian church that need to be promptly reviewed. Absolute authority is abundant with very little responsibility and zero accountability. Major reforms are long overdue.

  25. Johno said:

    Price of a Bentley: $250,000
    Price of a pistol: $2,000
    Chances of going to heaven: Nil and priceless

  26. manooshag said:

    When our churchmen left Haiastan, of necessity, and were seeking to preserve our Armenian religion, there were those who returned to USSR Armenia – were to
    remain there during the communist domination of our Armenian church… which was to become ineffective and controlled by communists. (Too, this was admitted by their own Vehapar when he visited St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral in New York City). There where those who chose to seek to locate in Antelias, and remained as the voice of our Armenian religion – the free voice then, and even now, into today… Vehapar Karekin, exemplary, yet in Etchmiadzin his great knowledge and efforts were stymied by the Armenian communist mentality of Etchmiadzin… a great churchman, dedicated to his nation, of blessed memory. Today, Vehapar Aram, exemplary, is recognized and active with all the religious leaders of the world, too, admired for his great efforts and leadership.
    Historically, churchmen have had alliances/children and misdirected politics – erred as churchmen. Today, actually, owning/parading in a Bentley when our Armenian nation is in dire straits – with alliances today with the misdirected governments – another relic of the mentality of communism – still. Ahmot!!

    highly educated, highly recognized by the religious leaders of the civilized world.

  27. manooshag said:

    When our churchmen left Haiastan, of necessity, and were seeking to preserve our Armenian religion, there were those who returned to USSR Armenia – were to
    remain there during the communist domination of our Armenian church… which was to become ineffective and controlled by communists. (Too, this was admitted by their own Vehapar when he visited St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral in New York City). There where those who chose to seek to locate in Antelias, and remained as the voice of our Armenian religion – the free voice then, and even now, into today… Vehapar Karekin I, exemplary, yet in Etchmiadzin his great knowledge and efforts were stymied by the Armenian communist mentality of Etchmiadzin… a great churchman, dedicated to his nation, of blessed memory. Today, Vehapar Aram, exemplary, is recognized and active with all the religious leaders of the world, too, admired for his great efforts and leadership.
    Historically, churchmen have had alliances/children and misdirected politics – erred as churchmen. Today, actually, owning/parading in a Bentley when our Armenian nation is in dire straits – with alliances today with the misdirected governments – another relic of the mentality of communism – still. Ahmot!!

  28. Herosoohi Vesmadian said:

    Yes it is a shame. Armenia’s problem is not just with church authorities & clergymen, apparently it starts with head of the state – the person who showers gifts to these men. Yet women like Mrs. Hacobyan, the minister for diaspora, who recently visited Australia, will remain just that. I wish Armenians in motherland statrted voting for females to hold higher offices in Government so they can support & narish our people like they do as a mother with their children & families. Oh God, I wish I remain alive to see that day as I know for a fact this lady is more capable than Australia’s present Prime Minister – Julia Gillard

  29. Van said:

    Archbishop (ha, ha, ha) Kchoyan a shining example of the values of our clergy. Go ahead and donate to our churches Armenians, marvel at your names on walls, benches and columns. ”…For when two of you meet anywhere in the world, see if you will not create two more bloody churches!!” so, so, sad!

  30. bigmoustache said:

    all those who put faith in a myth are GULLIBUL SAPS, beliving in things you cant see, clinging on hope.
    you want to worship something? worship your people, they exist, they are real. they have lived through more miracles than jesus or any other ‘prophet’ has conjured up. they have suffered more than jesus. jc’s parents had a birth out of wedlock so they named their son holy (during those times there were more ‘prophets’ in that land than the greeks had gods). so this lie went to his head. dont get me wrong i love the message, but its USELESS. the world is for the taking. turn the other cheek and look what happens, 1915.
    and dont forget, christianity didnt flourish in armenia like a rainbow sweeping over the land. we DESTROYED temples and killed people. dont get me wrong, our christianity is our identity now, those beautiful churches are part of our art, culture and history and for that i would fight tooth an nail to protect it.
    but i belive in my people, and the only one i can put blind faith in (because blind faith is foolish) is the ARF. theyre track record for a century is proof enough

    • Armanen said:

      What a God aweful rant! You should not put blind faith in anyone, even the ARF!

      • bigmoustache said:

        that means you dont know about the ARF. im not just talking about the history, the selfless and unrecognized sacrifices, the fact that they both spill their blood and sweat with work, pen and sword, more than ANY organization!
        or the fact that the MANY groups under the umbrella of the ARF are what keep our churches, schools, community centers and youth groups operating. aside from saving and sacrificing lives, their ‘keeping the lights on’ in these communities is what keeps armenians alive in the diaspora. were flourishing here going from a school to a high school, in beirut a university.
        DO YOU KNOW WHO THE ARF IS? our fathers and uncles, sisters, mothers, grandparents, who went to their ‘agoump’ once a week, like a part time job with no pay, leaving their wife and comfort, to do work! you have to go to lebanon for a confrence? thats it! THIS IS WHY I TRUST THEM! they are the good armenians from the community, our families. a couple of young ones even went to kharapagh but i was a child and dont remember that time.
        sure the ARF is made up of humans, and humans can err, but if it happens its NIPPED IN THE BUD faster than any organization! if the ARF took over the army and country, you would see how long it takes for the mafiaism and corruption and mafia casinos to end. 1 month.
        so, yes, there are CERTAIN things you would put blind faith in. WOULDNT YOU PUT BLIND FAITH IN YOUR MOM AND DAD? FAMILY?————-THIS IS WHAT IM TRYING TO SAY!

  31. yervant said:

    Normal ce mi gatoigosin inki mafia egetze ampohc ashar kani had gronagani yegegetziyen vrndez.
    Gatoigosi ir mafian arten snadze.
    Haayastani mec canabar ciga tbrotz ciga ganunakir ciga.
    Hayastani Kocaryan,Sarkisyani lman 50,60 had oligarki tzerkne vov as marteru havadk uni ABUSE

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