Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II during the mass

Armenian Patriarch Champions ‘Strong Family’ In Christmas Mass


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and other Armenian officials attend a Christmas mass at St. Gregory’s Cathedral in Yerevan, January 6.

The supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, urged Armenians to stick to their traditional family values in the face of “pseudo-liberalism” as he celebrated a Christmas mass on Sunday.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his wife, Anna Hakobyan, at mass

“In the miracle-laden scene of the Holy Nativity, dearly beloved, we see that the path of salvation began with the family. It is from the family that the illumined road … was borne out of,” he said in a homily read out at Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral in Yerevan.

During the liturgy attended by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and other senior state officials, Karekin also prayed for “our faithful brothers and sisters of the great world family who mark this sacred day in affliction and suffering.” He referred to victims of armed conflicts, human rights abuses and “unquenchable desire for unmitigated power” around the world.

“Ungodly paths of pseudo-liberalism — which divert people from the life which the Lord commanded us to live, from spiritual life — likewise lead to dead ends, undermining the foundations of a healthy society and strong family,” Karekin went on.

“The very first platform for bringing up worthy sons and daughters for the homeland and for educating a citizen for the country is the family,” he said. “It is in the family that the future of a nation is shaped, that the foundations of a powerful country are laid. It is under the family’s nurturing roofs that the sown seeds of God’s word bear fruit in children’s souls, that the spiritual-moral values, the fearless spirit of choosing the good, are being nurtured. It is by the examples shown in the family that mutual love, trust and care are instilled.”

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“Let us remain dedicated to the sanctity and the strengthening of the family. Let us preserve unblemished the idea of the God-ordained family, its sanctity, the national traditions,” he added.

Accordingly, Karekin declared 2019 a “year of the family,” saying that Armenian church bodies and clergymen should launch “family-centered assistance projects and events.” He also encouraged them to organize more pilgrimages to Armenian holy sites “in order to warmly kindle the flame of love toward the homeland.”

Karekin expressed concern at “the crisis of the family” in many Christian nations in a joint declaration with Pope Francis issued during the latter’s June 2016 visit to Armenia. The two religious leaders also reaffirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan shakes hands after the service.

Francis repeatedly paid tribute to Armenia’s Christian heritage during the landmark trip. “For Armenia, faith in Christ has not been like a garment to be donned or doffed as circumstances or convenience dictate, but an essential part of its identity,” the pontiff declared at the Armenian Apostolic Church’s main cathedral in Echmiadzin.

Pashinyan likewise praised the ancient church and acknowledged its “special significance” for many Armenians when he met with Karekin in November. It was apparently their first one-on-one meeting since Pashinyan swept to power in May on a wave of mass protests organized by him. The 43-year-old prime minister had been very critical of the Catholicos in the past.

Shortly after the success of the “velvet revolution” Karekin came under strong pressure from an obscure group accusing him of corruption and close ties with the country’s former government and demanding his resignation. Dozens of its members partly occupied his Echmiadzin headquarters in July. Police waited for several days before forcing them out of the premises.

The slow police reaction prompted strong criticism from representatives of the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) and other conservative critics of Pashinyan’s government. They portrayed it as further proof of what they see as the government’s contempt for “traditional Armenian values.”

In his Christmas message, Karekin made no explicit mention of the Pashinyan-led revolution. He only cited “the new changes of our life” that have increased “hope and optimism for new achievements, success, and victories.”


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