YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused the Armenian Apostolic Church of meddling in politics, prompting a scathing response from the office of its supreme head, Catholicos Karekin II.
“Nothing prevents them [the church] from setting up a party and embarking on political activities through that party,” Pashinyan said during a visit to Armenia’s Tavush province. “That would be more honest towards voters, and they would be on the same plane with other political rivals.”
“When the state and the church mix together there is nothing more dangerous than that. The state must mind its own business, the church must mind its own business,” he told a group of local schoolchildren in remarks publicized on Saturday.
The church was quick to hit back at Pashinyan, underlining its strained relationship with the Armenian government.
“If some people want to practice ecclesiology, they can try to get admitted to the Theological Seminary; of course, if they overcome the educational threshold set for admission and present convincing arguments about their good health,” said Archbishop Arshak Khachatryan, the chancellor of the church’s Mother See in Echmiadzin.
Pashinyan’s relationship with the ancient church, to which the vast majority of Armenians belong, has increasingly deteriorated in recent years and especially since the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Karekin II and other senior clergymen joined the Armenian opposition in calling for Pashinyan’s resignation following Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war.
The Catholicos last month defended those calls and deplored the prime minister’s statements on the Karabakh conflict condemned by the opposition as pro-Azerbaijani.
A pro-government parliamentarian responded by accusing the Armenian Church of interfering in political processes. She also denounced Karekin II’s homily read out during the Easter mass at Yerevan’s Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral on April 9.
“When justice and truth cease to be the core of our undertakings and activities in state and public life, we will continue to face manifestations of unaccountability,” Karekin II told hundreds of worshippers during the mass.