By Edmond Y. Azadian
Since time immemorial Armenians and Greeks in Jerusalem have challenged each other to win the competition to bring out the light of the Holy Sepulchre Church on the eve of the Easter Feast (Jrakalooydz). Most of the time, Armenian monks have been the champions. But in recent years the Greeks have become more assertive, if not more belligerent, pushing the Armenians to the background.
Along with losing the symbolic Holy Sepulchre light, the Armenian Patriarchate itself has fallen on hard times because of the encroachment of the Israeli government, incessant feud with the Greek Patriarchate, internal corruption and the dwindling Armenian population in the Holy City.
[Christ descended into Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace, yet ironically, the Holy land has been the most tortured piece of real estate on earth. And Armenians, with their propensity to adversity, have kept their presence on that tortured land since the pre-Christian era, and beginning in the sixth century AD, they have built their churches and established the Patriarchate.
Over many centuries, Jerusalem and the Holy places have changed hands between many conquerors and Armenians have learned to survive throughout those tumultuous upheavals.
News emanating from the Armenian Patriarchate has often been more disheartening than positive. Many of the problems have been created by the successive ruling powers, but also by the hands of the Armenian clergy jaded to abuse and conspiracy.
But it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel as evidenced by the news release sent by the Patriarchate, following a conclave of the St. James Brotherhood, which took place November 15 to 18.
The release gives a positive spin to the developments in Jerusalem.
One of the major changes is the request by the aging and ailing Patriarch, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, to elect a coadjutor patriarch to assist him in running the affairs of the patriarchate, which have become overwhelming for the 93-year-old. There are many precedents in the history of Jerusalem when coadjutor patriarchs have been elected to assist an incapacitated pontiff. But the current by-laws don’t have any provision for that position. Therefore, a by-laws committee has been appointed, headed by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, to amend the current by-laws to allow the election of the coadjutor patriarch, by March 2011. As to who the potential candidate may be, its anyone’s guess. It looks like there are at least three unannounced candidates for the position. Anyone elected will almost certainly be elevated to the position of patriarch later.
The change in the by-laws also will define the function and the powers of the coadjutor.