YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, reiterated on Thursday calls for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation.
“There is no change in our convictions and positions,” he told reporters when asked about his stance on the continuing political crisis in Armenia.
In a televised address to the nation aired on December 8, Karekin II said Pashinyan lacks popular trust after the “disastrous” war in Nagorno-Karabakh and should step down to prevent violent unrest and end the “deep political crisis.” He said he made this clear at a face-to-face meeting with the embattled premier.
Similar statements were also made by the number two figure in the church hierarchy, the Lebanon-based Catholicos Aram I, and other top clergymen in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora. Some of them denounced Pashinyan in unusually strong terms.
Karekin II again insisted on Thursday that the ancient church, to which the vast majority of Armenians nominally belong, is not meddling in politics or siding with opposition forces trying to topple the government.
“The church is guided by national and state interests, and if the church’s position is in tune with the views of one or another political faction that must not be construed as a church bias in favor of a particular political party. The church is above politics,” he said.
President Armen Sarkissian and Armenian many public figures have also urged Pashinyan to step down and hand over power to an interim government. The premier has rejected these calls while expressing readiness to hold fresh parliamentary elections.
Karekin II spoke to journalists as he visited Yerevan’s Yerablur Military Pantheon to mark the 29th anniversary of the establishment of Armenia’s Armed Forces. Many of at least 3,500 Armenian soldiers killed during the recent war were buried there.
Karekin II had traditionally prayed and laid flowers at Yerablur together with the country’s political leaders. But he was conspicuously absent from a wreath-laying ceremony led there by Pashinyan this time around. The prime minister was joined by parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan and several members of his government.
Pashinyan and his entourage declined to attend a Christmas mass celebrated by Karekin II at Yerevan’s St. Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral on January 6.