By Edmond Y. Azadian
An eerie silence reigns over the Armenian news media, both in Armenia and in the diaspora, on one of the most crucial issues facing the entire Armenian world. Indeed, the election of a patriarch in Jerusalem is around the corner when the Brotherhood of St. James convenes on January 23.
We cannot lull ourselves into believing that this is an issue which concerns only the Brotherhood, or for that matter only Armenians.
What happens at the Armenian Patriarchate on that date has far broader ramifications than many of us believe. The interested outside parties have their own plans. Rival churches have their own. Indeed, the only people indifferent to these developments appear to be the Armenians who hold the key to the situation. All that needs to be done is to use that key wisely to preserve the treasures and the legal rights which our ancestors have attained through blood and sweat over the centuries.
The Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem traces its roots all the way to the sixth century, when a congregation and monastery were
established. Without enjoying the support and the protection of a powerful Armenian state, the Armenian Patriarchate has won and
maintained equal rights along with the Greeks and Catholics and it controls one sixth of the Old City.
In addition to legal and ceremonial privileges, the Patriarchate has vast real estate holdings to the envy of other denominations
and ruling authorities of Jerusalem. After the Matenadaran in Yerevan, the Patriarchate boasts the largest collection of Armenian
ancient manuscripts which have been jealously guarded and catalogued by the monks, the last one being Bishop Norayr Bogharian
of blessed memory.
Although Greeks have suffered the same bitter fate at the hands of the Turks as have the Armenians, Jerusalem has been a place where historically there has not been any empathy from the Greek Patriarchate toward the Armenians. On the contrary, they have taken every opportunity to trample Armenian rights, the last one being recorded in the Church of the Nativity. There are probably more problems in store in this relationship, in view of the rapprochement between Israel and Cyprus in exploring the continental shelf of the island for oil and gas, despite threats issued by Ankara.