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      Assessing Aram I's visit to North America

Assessing Aram I's visit to North America   29/11/2005

Assessing Aram I's visit to North America


The recent pontifical visit of His Holiness Aram I of Antelias made a clear statement that the church unity will remain an illusive dream for the foreseeable future, and that the Catholicosate of Cilicia – and the political powers behind it – is set to outshine the Mother See of all Armenians in Etchmiadzine.

When His Holiness Karekin II visited the West Coast last June and was received with unprecedented devotion and enthusiasm, Catholicos Aram I was itching on His throne to outdo that visit by planning and organizing His own show.

Every time the Mother See makes a move, Antelias responds with a counter move. Whether it is a pontifical visit to a Diocese or a visit to the Vatican, Aram I has to pre-empt or to follow it to neutralize the impact of Etchmiadzine. And this, in a spirit of competition and in a determination to keep the church divided in the Diaspora.

Catholicos Aram is an erudite, articulate and wise religious leader, who is a victim of his own vanity and that of the political party behind Antelias. Therefore, it was not difficult for Him to concoct a reason for this ill-conceived trip. Instead of one reason, He presented three reasons – to celebrate the 1600th anniversary of the Armenian Alphabet, 10th anniversary of His elevation as Catholicos, and 75th anniversary of the seminary in Antelias. He could have marked all these occasions in Lebanon, without undertaking the trip, but He had other mischievous intentions.

His Holiness Aram I paid a lackluster visit to the U.S. East Coast, where communities have given up hope that any breakthrough may be achieved soon in church unity. The welcoming crowds were embarrassingly sparse, indirectly giving Him the message that His mission is not in tune with the popular mood.

Prior to His visit to Canada the media representatives of the dissident Prelacy had provided enough misinformation to the local news organizations to portray Aram I as the Supreme head of the Armenian Church. The St. Catherine's The Standard described him as the Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians and the See of Antelias as the Vatican of the Armenian Church. This, of course, did not bother the vainglorious Pontiff of Cilicia. Similar misrepresentation in the Toronto Star met with a barrage of protest letters to force the editors to retract their portrayal. The Toronto Sun had done its homework to escape embarrassment and the Montreal Gazette made a confusing statement, which fits perfectly Antelias designs, which is to confuse the roles of Etchmiadzine and Antelias and their respective Pontiffs.

The story on the West Coast was very different; the California Armenian community being the extension of the Middle East, and the feuds originating in that region being more resonant in L.A. than anywhere else, more pomp and circumstance was accorded to the visiting Pontiff.

Over there His rhetoric and generosity were at their peak. He bestowed many medallions to win hearts and popularity.

While in California He dedicated two new churches in communities where already well-established Armenian churches function. This was the ultimate challenge to the Mother See and the Western Diocese, stating that Antelias is here to expend and consolidate its positions defying the Mother See in every corner of the world.

Hypocrisy was also at its peak, as the Antelias Pontiff never missed an occasion to exalt unity of the Armenian Church. Of course Prelacy captive audience heard what it pleased, but some spineless people outside the Prelacy also paid tribute to this apostle of church disunity.

Only the Massis Weekly, organ of the Hunchak party, had the courage to state that Aram I's words and deeds did not match.

Now that the Pontifical visit is over, Aram I is back in Antelias brooding over his next plan to intimidate the Mother See.

It is quite evident for all rational people that church unity will never be achieved as long as Aram I's vanity is not satisfied and as long as the Dashnag party can use the churches under its control as cash cows.



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