Jerusalem Patriarch vs. Catholicos

Jerusalem Patriarch Archbishop Nourhan Manougian (left) and His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians (right)

Jerusalem Patriarch Urges Catholicos Karekin II to Reinforce the Church’s “Spiritual Foundations”, Rejects Attending Etchmiadzin Meeting

JERUSALEM—In an unprecedented and tersely-worded letter Jerusalem Patriarch Archbishop Nourhan Manougian criticizes His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, urging him to reinforce the Armenian Church’s “spiritual foundations,” which the Patriarch says have been waning.

The letter comes as a protest of recent events in the France Diocese, which prompted the resignation early last month of the popular Primate of France Archbishop Norvan Zakarian, which has prompted across-the-board and collective outrage from the French-Armenian community.

In the letter Manougian tells the Catholicos that the protest was prompted by the Supreme Spiritual Council’s decision to accept Zakarian’s resignation, despite his years of service to the church, adherence to the gospel and overall service to the community.

Zakarian resigned his post as French Primate, after alleging that the Catholicos had demanded that he re-instate the parish priest of the Armenian Church in Nice, Father Vatché Ghazanchyan, who was under criminal investigation by the French authorities and was ordered to serve a two-year suspended sentence for allegedly beating a man. Ghazanchyan’s alleged business dealings in France have long been an issue of concern for the French-Armenian community, especially the community in Nice.

Zakarian said his resignation was prompted by an incident on June 29 at the VIP lounge of Charles De Gaul Airport in Paris, where the Catholicos, in the presence of the Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, Parliament Speaker Hovik Abrahamian, Armenia’s Ambassador to France Vigen Tchitetchian and other religious and secular leaders of France, threatened the archbishop by saying: “If by July 1 you don’t reinstate him [Father Vatché Ghazanchyan] to his position, then you have no business with the Mother See.”

Zakarian’s resignation has prompted anger in the French Armenian community, and statements of protest have been issued by a number of organizations including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s France Central Committee and the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations in France—the ANC of France.

“I would like to say in brotherly terms, that a threat is not becoming of a clergyman, especially a high-ranking one—the ‘Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians,’ from whom it is expected, as the genuine FATHER and forgiving SUPERIOR, to relate with love and forgiving spirit with his children or with his subordinates,” said Arch. Marnougian in his protest letter.

The Jerusalem Patriarch argued that Zakarian’s term was to have ended in November and suggested that the Supreme Spiritual Council should have waited until then to “accept” his resignation.

“Do you truly want to eradicate your reputation as the ‘Constructive Catholicos’ by extending the number of clerics you have defrocked?” asked Arch. Manougian. “What has occurred was unacceptable and a great injustice coming from Holy Etchmiadzin, from the Armenian people’s Holiness of the Holy.”

“Your Holiness, if you recall, a few years back, when with great pride – and justly so – you were showing me the beautiful buildings You had erected within the campus of the Mother See? I said to You, that equal to and more important than physical buildings is reinforcing the spiritual foundation; and You reassured me that this would also happen,” said Manougian.

“Nevertheless, the time has come to establish that it is the superficial and the financial elements that are important and interesting to You,” added the Patriarch.

Arch. Manougian went on to recall an incident when the Catholicos was attempting to pressure the late Patriarch Torkom Manoogian to appoint Archbishop Aris Shirvanian as his “successor.” When the late Patriarch refused and Arch. Shirvanian informed the Catholicos that such a provision did not exist in the by-laws of the Church and the Patriarchate, the Catholicos Karekin II, according to the Patriarch, said: “I will strip all of you of your ranks.”

Citing the current climate within the Armenian Church and the issues he has set forth in the letter, Patriarch Manougian informed the Catholicos that he would not attend a meeting of Diocesan clerics in Etchmiadzin, scheduled to take place in September.


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  1. An Armenian said:

    As the spiritual leader of Armenians in Armenia, how has this guy help the poor, the hungry and the destitute population of Armenia? He erected beautiful buildings within the campus of the Mother Sea? Those were built with money given by diaspora Armenians and organizations. How did those buildings eliminate the suffering of the 35% of the population of Armenia living below the poverty line?

    • Greg said:

      There is no parish community life n Armenia. This would of been much more important, than erecting few churches on diaspora or oligarchic funds. Where are the Christian private schools, hospitals, retreats, social services…? Kudos to Archbishop Nourhan.
      It is the best of this Catholicos resigns. Before this Church completely splits up into pieces. People are very unhappy with his pontificate.

    • Ed said:

      if it acts like a duck…then it probably is a duck. — just to make things clear, there is no difference between this duck, and the one sitting in antelias.

      • seto zoravar said:

        FYI , Catholicos Aram in Antelias united the Armenians and not divide like Catholicos Karekin did .

    • Aram said:

      In Russin we use the word “vor v zakone”, that means “criminal in law”, “criminal’s godfather”, I could call him “catholicos v zakone”

  2. RA said:


  3. Malcolm Catchatoorian said:

    It is about time that someone has stood up to our Catholicos. He defrocked our beloved priest in San Francisco for being disobedient and not completing his military duties. He also was solely responsible to expel 2 students from my former Armenian School in Kolkata India. This “Holy Man” has to be stopped. What can we do as individuals to Defroke a Catholicos?

  4. jda said:

    Pray for the wisdom and compassion of all our clergy, members, and families.

  5. Saaten Maagar said:

    In layman terms, the archbishop of Jerusalem has balls. It is about time that, what is known to everyone who follows our church, no one is above the law of the land and our church, no one! I hope more high ranking clergyman of our church will raise such issues, if not for their own sake then for the sake of our church and the holy oath that they have taken. What kind of clergyman can witness such blatant abuse of power violations of our highest church post and still keep silent as if nothing has happened.

  6. nomad said:

    What a bunch of bafoons… “genuine father and forgiving superior,… relate with his children….” Wow, the hubris of it all. How exactly are these guys superior or fathers one might ask, who elects them to be spokesmen of our culture and heritage?

    Why do we have this unwavering deference to religious opinion or reverence to it without even a scintilla of critical thought or assessment?

    We need to be more cognizant of the human condition and shed these chains from antiquity and embrace the 21st century. Secular society, by far has produced more good than bad, even within the metrics that any religion provides. It’s time we as Armenians realize religion is becoming more and more irrelevant in society; and with that, put our resources towards adding to human knowledge and understanding.

    • Mariam said:

      Nomad, Please go and preach your secular dreams to another nation. Armenia IS and ALWAYS will be a Christian Nation. If you are an actual Armenian, please go read and learn some history before repeating what the social media has thought you! From your comment, it is quite obvious that you are quite young and have not reached maturity of thought. One day, you will realize how heavily you have been influenced and manipulated by the mass media. Don’t make generalized comments about every conflict. Hope one day you wake up and until then I wish you good luck! FYI, under Soviet Communism, Armenia lost its spiritual soul -which has led to majority of today’s social problems.

      • nomad said:


        Let me see if I can begin to construct some rejoinders from your incoherent ramblings.

        First, third and fourth sentence of your comment reeks of ad-hominem diatribes; therefore a response will fall on dead ears anyway but I will just add that me being Armenian or not is irrelevant; my comments apply to any culture or religion be it the Catholics, or any of the three Abrahamic religions.

        Second sentence is a fallacious argument; it is called appeal to antiquities, which I will let you to research and figure out. Because we were Christian before is not a necessity to continue being one now. Furthermore, you are in need of a history lesson as I recall our most revered and iconic figure/leader to Armenians was Tigran II, which preceded Christianity. Unless you make some sort of special pleading for that fellow or brand him as a heretic or not even consider him to be an Armenian, your choice, this is an inescapable refutation of you Armenians=Christians. Not to mention, that there are many Armenians on this planet who are of other religious persuasion or do not belong to any religious group, I’m sure they would appreciate you castrating their national/cultural identity.

        Fifth sentence is moot as I do not use social media and hardly rely on mass media for my information and research needs.

        Sixth sentence you need to clarify what generalities you are referring to. I thought I was quite specific to criticize the root hold Christianity has within the Armenian community, almost tantamount to a cultural identity rather than religious one at this point in time.

        Seventh sentence, I appreciate the sentiment but it is otherwise superfluous and not welcomed.

        Eight sentence, oh boy… define “soul.” Then, please provide some evidence to suggest soviet communism is the root cause of Armenia’s “majority of …social problems.”

      • seto zoravar said:

        Well said Mariam , i agree with everything you said , we are Christian Nation with our own language and will remain as such .

  7. Hratch said:

    Just proves that no one is divine and holy. They’re all human with earthly aspirations and interests. This exactly the purpose to have checks and balances at every level and in every field. As the saying goes, ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

  8. Tsayt said:

    His Holiness Karekin II is inevitably, and sadly, a product of post-Soviet corrupt Armenian ruling class. Due to his post as the Supreme spiritual leader of all Armenians he has to be respected by us all. Having said that, the rumours flying around about His Holiness’s….unholy….behaviour damages the integrity of the See. It is Karekin II’s, and only His, duty and responsibility to establish, and maintain, the reputation of the Holy See of Etchmiadzine, in doing so He will command the respect of the nation. Otherwise, he will join the ranks of all those Popes and “Holy” leaders in the Armenian version of Dante’s Inferno.

    Sweeping justified criticism under the rug is no answer. The longer things are kept quiet the worse it will get in the future, and ultimately it will bring irreparable damage to the Holy See.

  9. sam said:

    i wonder if these people do believe in god and jesus shame on them they are using the church as a business instead of being a role model to original people . i sew him and met him twice .i will not tell you my feelings toward the catholicos and i will stick with it forever.

  10. Hovig Nersessian said:

    Dearest all.
    These are purely clerical/religious matters that do not at all deserve media ‘entertainment’….unless it is targetted…!! Two highest authorities, Patriarch and Catholicos for all Armenians, can never be victims of “religious politics”. A decision by Etchmiadzin should be taken as the right decision unless discussed internally but not used for ‘exploitation’ purposes…
    Please, we are proud of being the first Christian nation but we do never agree to be the most ‘unstable’ Christians….
    As a normal human, regardless of Armenian or else, please maintain all these issues within the clerical boarders unless you wish to create religious cons and pros…
    Sorry for the interference.

    • Greg said:

      Armenian Church is known to be run by both – the clergy and the lay. What does “unless discussed internally” mean? We all are “internals” here, I suppose. The authority of the Holly office must be supported by the dignity of the officers. This is not happening with this Pontificate. And even Government is no help here, as they are from the same oligarchic system. This Pontiff
      is acting as a “Secretary of the Department of Religion”. He should resign.
      Lord have mercy on us.

    • tato said:

      The Catholicos is the spiritual leader of the church.
      Bad leadership can result in irreparable damage to the church.
      Are you saying the people should not be vigilant as well as expect/demand exemplary behaviour befitting the clergy.

  11. Mihran said:

    He has turned up to be the worst Catholicos in Armenian history.

    Patriarch Archbishop Nourhan Manougian has very serious valid points which must be addressed as this situation cannot continue as it.

    Catholicos has turned up to be an oligarch along with some of his close bishops who are involved in lucrative business to put it mildly.

    Catholicos has lost all sense of moral values and has lost the respect of his people.

    He must go the sooner the better for our people.

    The Armenian nation must defrock this destructive so called religious leader,he is nothing but a corrupt businessman.

    • Varujan said:

      I agree, this Catholicos is really a disgrace to our people. I give a lot of credit to Patriarch Archbishop Nourhan Manougian. Our other Patriarch Archbishop Mesrop Moutafyan had a very serious letter to Catholicos 13 years ago, he new him well, but he just ignored as his character arrogant and dictator. I wished he was well enough to involved again with Patriarch Nourhan Manougian. They would work together very well.

  12. Fredrick said:

    There is nothing new about the ongoing hooliganism of the Catholicos. His position was allegedly bought and paid for by a certain woman with close relations to him. It is unfortunate that even our religious institutions have become a business. The very same thing that Jesus fought against and was crucified for. What is even more alarming is that the rest of the clergy do not have the backbone to stand up and defend the faith. I give a lot of credit to Archbishop Nourhan Manougian patriarch of Jerusalem for defending the basic tenets of Christianity and exposing Catholicos’s quest for money. What a sad replacement for a great man like Karekin I.

    • ominac said:

      an Armenian priest after serving 10 or 20 years has practically no skill to do any other job. and if they stand up, they will be fired. so for their only income, they keep agreeing with the nonsense of their superiors

  13. George said:

    Maybe we should have our own Catholicos chosen by diaspora Armenians in the West (Europe & Americas) with his headquarter in Paris.

    • Hratch said:

      We already have the Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. Why do you choose to ignore it? Is everything of Western Armenian origin not important to you?

      • Hratch said:

        Please call it by it’s official name. Antelias is the Lebanese city were it currently resides. By called it ‘Antelias’ you are actually alienating Armenians from other parts of the world.

  14. Concerned Armenian said:

    This is very disturbing….it seems like the Armenian Church hierarchy is turning into a little mafia…This same sort of situation is/has happened in the Archdiocese of Canada because of “BUSINESS” dealings of the former Archbishop that has left the Canadian Diocese in debt of over $1 million dollars….the Armenian Mafia might have infiltrated the Armenian Church to expand it’s reach to the Diaspora….Very frightening….

    • ominac said:

      this guy was known to be a low life before he became Catholics. after getting elected he attracted all similar characters around the church. He is practically killing the mother see. Somehow people are more interested about the show, then the substance. How many years this nations need to fix a wrong.
      be the president , be the Catholics, be the judges?

  15. Kirk said:

    It’s just disgusting.
    It seems our Catholicos just became a member of oligarkh gang of Armenia overseeing prelates with
    Rolls Royce, Offshore accounts, insisting on reinstating criminals to parishes, etc…
    People lost their confidence on government, now on Etchmiadzin too?

    • Varujan said:

      Unfortunately it’s true and really disgusting. He defrock more clergies than any other Catholicos and most of them were good clergies, he only keeps and defends the low character clergies.His intention is clear.

  16. Arto said:

    If you don’t like it why don’t you guys go and establish another Holy See. Oh, wait you already did that.
    What gives you the right to talk?

    • Jeff Jones said:

      Don’t you know your history? The other Holy See has been around for centuries. This is nothing new.

      The existence of two Catholicosates within the Armenian Church, namely the Catholicosate in Etchmiadzin (the Catholicosate of All Armenians or otherwise known as Holy See of Etchmiadzin), Armenia, and the Catholicosate in Antelias Lebanon (the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia or otherwise known as Holy See of Cilicia), is due to historical circumstances.

      In the 10th century, when Armenia was devastated by Seljuks, the majority of the Armenians left their homeland and came to settle in Cilicia, where they re-organized their political, religious and cultural life.

      The Catholicosate, the headquarters of the Church also took refuge in Cilicia.

      In 1375 the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was destroyed. Cilicia became a battleground for Seljuks, Mamluks and other invaders. In the meantime Armenia was having a relatively peaceful time. The deteriorating situation in Cilicia on the one hand, and the growing cultural and religious awakening in Armenia on the other, led the clergy of Armenia to elect a Catholicos in Etchmiadzin. The latter was the original seat of the Catholicosate, but it had ceased to function as Catholicossal See after 485.

      Thus, in 1441, a new Catholicos was elected in Etchmiadzin in the person of Kirakos Virapetsi. At the same time Krikor Moussapegiants (1439-1446) was the Catholicos in Cilicia. Therefore, since 1441, there have been two Catholicosates in the Armenian Church with equal rights and privileges, and with their respective jurisdictions.

      The primacy of honor of the Catholicosate in Etchmiadzin, Armenia has been recognized by the Catholicosate in Sis, Cilicia.

  17. Sis said:

    This is not something new. It started from Switzerland, then France, then Canada, what is the next? He is with criminals, and protecting them. We have enough problem with the government, and now we have to deal with the Etchmiazin. This is a big shame for a clergyman.Yes, Diaspora has to think about this situation and find an alternative.Enough with criminals.

  18. Sokimag said:

    We, Armenians, should abandon the Armenian Apostolic Church and join the Roman Catholic Church. If we do that, we won’t have to deal with those fake corrupted Armenian “catholicos” anymore. We would be closer to the West again like we used to be in the Crusading Era with the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

    Pope Francis is a much holier man than our current catholicos. Pope Francis recognized the Armenian genocide, don’t forget that.

    Armenians, let’s all be part of the Roman Catholic Church.

  19. jack said:

    out of all the comment that i read looks like no one likes our catholicos .maybe its time for him to resign and ask gods for forgiveness

  20. Socrates said:

    Garegin must go. The country which first adopted Christianity does not deserve to be governed by crooks who use the Church for their own personal gains. You are a Disgrace to this nation and you have no right to represent a Christian nation Garegin.

  21. Socrates said:

    This same guy had sent a bunch of gangster to Nice, France to deal with community members who stood against his corrupt agenda. one community members was beaten and hospitalised. The is who Garegin really is. Every true clergyman that speaks the christian language and the language of God has a duty to stand against this crook!

  22. Jexp said:

    we should not involve the church in business….the church should be used only to connect with God and Jesus…

  23. arziv said:

    We must not get inovolved in matters of the soul and metaphysical spirituality. This is obviously a schism, a domestic quarrel amongst family members. Let’s not make it scandalous by making it public. Let the soul and spiritual fathers resolve their issues in spiritual terms. They ‘ll find a acceptable solution.

    • Armanen said:

      I think this is another attempt by foreign forces to divide Armenians. And I agree with you that this is an internal matter at heart and should be resolved in private.

  24. hagop djernazian said:

    Bravo! patriarchate nourhan manoogian he is the holy father that can stop him (karekin) !

  25. Vahan said:

    He should resign, if not, he should be dealt with another way……There are many options.

  26. Ohan said:

    As of me being Armenian ,I say shame on both sides,
    The world is changing and the devil is playing even
    Spiritual ppl R being fooled and blinded by $$$$$
    Rather Worke this out and become stronger,we r looking like a clown
    In front of the world . It’s about power ,money , jealousy….
    We live once and Avery one in the end is going
    To die there is no escape from that and we don’t take
    Money or wealth, only name will be remembered
    Wake up and smell the coffee. Who knows what is your grand grand father name or who he was ??
    My point is that even you R dead you will be remembered maximum 100 years and then forgotten ….

  27. Tsoghig said:

    I stand in strong support of Norvan Srpazan and the Patriarch of Jerusalem. It is a shame that the Catholicos is who he is. The new Pope should be an example to all our religious leaders. But Norvan Srpazan of France is one of the most wonderful, and good hearted humans on earth and the French Armenian community knows what a huge loss it is to our entire community, losing such a wonderful human as a leader of our community. Maybe the Holy Sea of Cilicia could scoop him up and reinstate him??

  28. Pingback: First Bishops’ Synod in 600 Years Commences in Etchmiadzin -

  29. Silva said:

    I have lost total faith in the Armenian churches after being in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Shame, shame, shame. I have faith and reverence to Jesus and Christianity and God and the Virgin Mary and the true Saints. I say get rid of all any any clergymen of corruption and just keep the true representatives of Christ in the Armenian church. Only then you may see thousands of Armenians flock to church. How can anyone expect good, honest Christians to attend services where corrupt evil representatives are conducting mass in representation of God?

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