HOW DO ARMENIAN CLERGYMEN ASSESS THE ALLEGATIONS OF GENOCIDE?
Dikran Kevorkian, Pastor of Kandilli Armenian Church, who took part in 7th October 2000 in the TV programme named �in a nutshell� said the following:
The genocide and relocation denote two different concepts. The imperialist schemes and the Armenian apolitical dream leaders (media, churches and clergy) are the causes of this situation. The Patriarch is a spiritual leader and a blunder is committed when his opinions are sought in the political matters. What could ASALA and PKK do if there were no political support behind them?
There was a German pressure on the Sublime Port for the relocation in an attempt to shake the existing order and to secure itself an economic benefit through the Berlin-Baghdad railroad.
With regard to assimilation, I am prepared to say this: Today, it is only in Turkey among all countries of the world that the Armenians manage to maintain their own identity. The Armenians in the diaspora abroad continue their struggle for existence by changing their names because there are efforts there to melt the Armenians in the cultural pot.
The diaspora knows very well that the Sunday rites in all major American churches are in English and the Armenians are gradually losing their own language. Those who declare these things are branded to be black sheep of the herd. It is for these reasons that we as the Armenians living in Turkey, declare our regrets against these efforts, because an injustice is committed to the spirit of national forces entrusted to us by Atatürk. All this is a stratagem concocted abroad, including the ASALA, PKK and Kocharian�s declaration. We, as the citizens of Turkey, believe that an injustice is perpetrated here. The Armenians should know better than being scapegoats if they are intelligent enough.
(THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCH)
Mesrob II, the Armenian Patriarch, gave the following reply during a round-table meeting at the Turkish CNN TV in October 2000 to he question of a spectator named Henika Kiremitci who asked him how they as the uneasy Armenian minority should act:
MESROB II - I too, feel a certain uneasiness when I feel the pulses of our Istanbul congregation members; yet I wish to say to all members of my church as well as to all the Armenians living in Turkey that there is no reason for you to be uneasy. Please have confidence in the common sense of all our citizens living here and particularly of our State and don�t feel yourselves embittered since you don�t even have the least involvement with these schemes and actions.
THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCH
Patriarch Mesrob II chairing the ceremonies at the Surp Krikor Losavoric Church in Kinaliada in the morning of 22 August delivered the following sermon in the Surp Badarak rites presented by Hayr Sahak Apega:
FIRST PART OF THE SERMON
There was a holy pool named Siloam at Yerusagem. At the time of Rab Hisus, the citizens used to say that the water in the pool suddenly churned from time to time and believed that the sick people who threw themselves into the pool when the water churned would be healed. Hundreds of sick people used to keep guard by the poolside and chant prayers. One day 18 people horribly died there when one of the poolside pillars collapsed. This incident is confirmed in the thirteenth chapter of Lucas Bible.
Reminding this incident to his disciples, he asked them whether these 18 people were more sinful than the other congregation members and, failing to receive any replies, said this: �No, because people may die for many other reasons than their own faults or sins. But the important thing here is this: everyone should be ready for the critical moment between life and death for acts of God or other causes and should avoid being caught unaware by the death. The greatest disaster that we may encounter is to lose God�s realm. If we want God�s affection and paternity, we should repent and approach Him. This constitutes the focal point of the sermons of Baptist Yahya (Surp Hovannes Migirdic) and Rab Hisus in the Bible: Repent, because God�s realm is near.
We are under the influence of the horrible earthquake of which the Centre was Izmit. Pains suffered by the death of more than twenty thousand people aside from the material and spiritual values are not easy to bear. The imminence of the earthquake was known. But this is in the human nature; we do not want to understand how late we were in adopting appropriate measures until that moment comes. I am wondering if the consciences of these thieve contractors are now bothering them. And the administrators acting as if they are in a slow-motion movie? On the other hand, is it possible not to feel grateful to the Greek citizens who sent their blood together with monetary help or the Israeli Government who set prize to its people and citizen even in an other country?
Humanity precedes piousness. Surp Agop says that those who do not love others may not love God, an invisible spirit. Those that consider religious, lingual and racial differences are lowly miserable. Like Rab Hisus taught in the example of Good Samaritan, all peoples are the children of the good father in the sky and brothers of each other even if they belong to different religions and ethnical groups. The people should be able to display the virtue of philanthropic spirit of help. The people who died in the Marmara earthquake, the suffering survivors without homes are all our brothers in the God. All believers should give the help they are capable to. It is indeed a sin to remain aloof to such grieves and pain.
When the autumn rains begin, myriad of people who live in the open will be getting ill. When we live in the warmth of our homes and partake our three daily meals, we should also think of disaster-stricken brothers and set aside a little from what God gave us. This is our first duty.
Our second duty is to repair within shortest possible time the damages in our community schools, churches and Patriarchate building and reinforce them against a probable new earthquake.
Doing all this, however, we should not overlook one point: This earthquake should be an opportunity for us to question ourselves, to renew our repentance and to socially, administratively and spiritually renew our deeds.
SECOND PART OF THE SERMON
In the second part of my sermon, I want to mention an important issue when the new school year approaches since our spiritual and cultural life sustains a major erosion. This is due to snobbism and desire to show off. It is not possible to conceive the reasons for disdaining the community�s schools and for preference particularly by the nouveau riche group to send their children to prestige schools. These people spread unjust rumours on the quality of the community�s schools to justify their action. Not less than eight of the graduates of our schools gained access to the Robert College with very high scores and the percentage of our senior high school graduates finding their way to universities is quite high. Our senior high schools rank hundred and fiftieth in the whole country.
Aren�t these the indicators of the success rates of our schools? Parents who refuse paying two hundred millions to our schools and send their children to those charging two to three billion Liras make the greatest unfairness to their off-springs by denying them the richness of their own language, culture and spiritual wealth. I am certain that these children will blame their parents when they grow up. There are different makes of cars and many alternatives when you want one as good as or better than that of your neighbour. But our community schools have none. Our schools educate very conscientious Turkish citizens and acquaint them with the Armenian language and literature and the basic tenets of the Christian religion.
Don�t our schools have problems? Of course they do. But so do the other schools. Therefore, we should take an active role in the school administrations, committees, and parent-teacher associations in order to remove the administrators who do not perform well and who do not renew themselves in a democratic way and replace them with better ones. This is possible only by the efficient and learned participation of our community. One of the direct consequences of the alienation from our schools is the deterioration of our family order. The rate of divorces, something unheard of until recently, rose rapidly in the last decade. Our people married without a holy bond and those who just simply cohabit reached almost sixty percent. We have many philanthropists among us who provide material support and seek an outlet from the blind alley into which our community entered. On the other hand, there are several who simply show off and remain aloof to these problems, but raise a lot of humdrum if they are not seated at the head tables or seen in the pictures taken.
Who, then, be involved in these problems if not the community leaders, intellectuals and Samaritans? I have only spiritual powers. The only thing that I may say as your Patriarch is that I will withdraw my benediction from every person and every family who remove their children from their community, religion and school. Pity to those devoid of the benefaction of the church and church fathers! Happy are those who are bonded by the affection ties and unison of this great family! Happy are those who are able to drink the eternity waters through our foreseeing merciful church built under the customs and traditions of our ancestors!
Briefly I want to say this: There are only a few weeks before the start of the new school year. Own up your schools, support them, keep your children in your own education institutions, encourage your beloved teachers, have faith in your church and schools and return your children to the community schools even if they are enrolled elsewhere for one or two years.
THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCH
Now we will reprint here the interview given to Milliyet daily�s reporter Yavuz Baydar by the Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II:
Question: There were no Armenian Patriarchs in Constantinapolis until its conquest by Mehmed II. Why?
Mesrob II:The history of Armenian community in Constantinapolis date back to the fourth century BC. We know that there was an Armenian church in the sixth century within the city walls. Later, since Byzantine was not tolerant to Christians other than the Orthodox denomination, the Armenians held their rites in buildings outside the walls. The spiritual leader of all Armenians in Thrace and in Europe until Lvov was in Bursa. For this reason, an Armenian Patriarch was not deemed necessary within Byzantine.
Question: What was the situation of the Armenian community in Anatolia until the conquest?
Mesrob II:The history of Christian Armenians in Anatolia dates back to the missionary work in eastern regionsd by two of the apostles of Jesus, Saint Thaeeus and Saint Bartholomeus. In 301 AD, the Armenian Kingdom accepted the Christianity as the official religion and the Echmiadzine Patriarchate, considered as the Archbishop for the Armenians was founded. We will celebrate in 2001 the 1700th anniversary of this event. Furthermore, the Armenians dissociating themselves of the Jerusalem Patriarchate established a separate Armenian one.
The Aktamar Patriarchate founded on the Isle of Aktamer in Van lake in 10th century was the third. The Clician one in Kozan was established in 1441. In all other regions, there were Armenian Bishopries or Archbishopries, called �marhasas� in Ottoman.
Question:Why did Fatih the Conqueror grant a Patriarchate edict to the Armenian community in Istanbul?
Mesrob II:After the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmet II brought large numbers of Armenians to the city in order to populate it. Following the recognition of Gennadios as the Greek Archbishop, the same treatment granted to Hovagim as the Archbishop of all Armenians may perhaps be deemed as urged by the wish to establish a balance between Christian inhabitants.
We should bear in mind the fact that there was a large mass of people who did not accept the Byzantine Orthodox doctrine within the Empire. Furthermore, the Archbishop would constitute an authority for facilitating the collection of taxes from the Armenians.
Question: We find the Armenians during the Ottoman reign as a merchant and artisan community who were not involved on a large scale in the existing problems. The Armenians began to get closer to the palace from the Mahmud II period onward. In the era following the Reformation, the Regulation on the Armenian Nation imparted a secular autonomy to the Armenian community that produced deputies and even viziers. At the same time, however, the dissolution trend in the Ottoman Empire was accelerating and some Armenian political parties were revolting against the central administration and the bitter events that were experienced culminated in 1915. What do you think of all these discussions that continue still?
Mesrob II: I don't think that the Armenians, at the time, were after independence. Most of the community were followers of the Patriarchate and the Ottoman Empire. Some were even disturbed by the plunder and political unrest in the Eastern part of the Empire, and were requesting the reestablishment of security. Only a minor part, the Taºnak followers, were after independence.
The rulers of that period did a major mistake by holding the entire minority responsible for the deeds of a just a few of them. To me, the problem was this: the collapse of the Ottoman Empire had started and numerous countries proclaimed their independence. And of course, some powers of the West, took part in this chaos. Due to reasons like this, the Turkish-Armenian relations were forced into an insecure atmosphere. Thus, the decree on relocation was declared, which led to events called as "the big disaster" in the history of the Armenians.
Nevertheless, it would be misleading to explain the entire history of the Turkish-Armenian relations, up to the establishment of the Turkish Republic, just based on this last period.
We have to study the history, from the beginning of the 5th century. We shall not disregard that the first Armenian publishing house was established in Istanbul and that the first Armenian book was printed there, as well as, that the first Armenian Theatre, which was also opened in this city. To me, the most important thing is that people from various communities, cultures and religions lived together under the same roof of an Empire, for more than 600 years. This is a fact to be celebrated.
Question: Was the transition to the Republic a pain for your Church?
Mesrob II : Of course, it was. The First World War was over and the relocation took place. Destruction effected the entire community. In the first five years of the Republic, the community did not have a Patriarchate. After Muslu I. Mesrob was elected as Patriarchate in 1927, a normalisation period started.
Question: What are the problems of your community and Church, today?
Mesrob II: We don't have problems, regarding religious matters. We can perform our religious duties at any place and time, as we like to do. The most important problem is lack of clergymen. A school of clergymen is a must, however, we desire to solve this problem together with YÖK, within the university system.
The community has social problems. The Declaration of 1936 forced some limitations on our community, which are in the present time totally obsolete and require reform. One should be allowed to donate to a church, as other are allowed to donate to mosques. All donations of properties to Foundations, after 1936, are to be returned to the owners since 1970. If the ex-owners have already died, the property was confiscated. I wish this act would be annulled soon.
Question: What is your perspective of the Turkish nation, in the eve of 2000 ?
Mesrub II: Though the atmosphere in Turkey, of which we are celebrating the 75th anniversary, seems somehow tight and thick, I do not think that the situation is that bad. I bear hope for the future. I feel positive, both for the regional situation of our country and its steps into the future. I think that we can overcome most of the problems by revising the system.
Question: What is your opinion, concerning the discussion on secularism ?
Mesrub II: Our community shares this principle. The document of 1863 verifies our attitude. We still share this attitude. I, as the Patriarch of the Turkish Armenians, do not have the least interest to be a judge of a religious court solving claims of marriage, divorce, and the right of property.
As a citizen born in the era of the Republic, I think that there is no way to turn to the past. To me, in the eve of 2000, any attempt to of ruling daily live with religious rules, which means a return to the middle ages, is ridiculous.
Question: The Year 2000 Celebrations are attracting the entire humanity, nevertheless, they have a special meaning for the Christians. How will you contribute to the "Millennium" Celebrations in Turkey ? Are these celebrations a big opportunity for Turkey ? Do you think that Turkey is giving the deserved attention to this subject ?
Mesrob II: It is very important for us, however, I do not know what importance is given by the government authorities. Look, there are 3 major Anatolian Churches in Turkey: The Armenian, the Greek and the Syriac. As far as I know, the government did not get in touch with any of these churches, regarding the 2000 Celebrations. We are ready for any contributions, but if it is left to the very last moment, I am afraid that we might encounter some undesired obstacles. I have always said:
If Palestine and Vatican are countries of prior importance for Christianity, Anatolia, in other words Turkey, is of secondary importance. The tombs of half of the Apostles are in Anatolia! In 2000, a flood of tourists will visit Israel. How many will visit Turkey? If were are looking for a solution to our tourism crisis, we should also consider this issue. The cultural, folkloric and religious tissue of Turkey should be demonstrated in full range. I think that this is not done. We should exploit this great opportunity.
THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCH
Mesrob II, the Armenian Patriarch, in his speech held on a reception on 22 Mai 1999, at the Hilton Hotel:
"We are on the eve of the 3rd Millennium. We are preparing to celebrate the beginning of a new era in the history of mankind. I think that this is a great opportunity for all of us. An opportunity that could enable us to realise our dream of unifying continents, cultures and nations�
A world where individual rights and freedom is respected, a world of justice far away from any and all kind of violence is our mutual desire.
The crossroad ahead does not only offer a great opportunity but also a very difficult exam. The 2nd millennium that we are going to leave behind us, is full of tragedies.
But still, there are also incidents that we will remember will with respect in the following millenniums.
Just the one that we are celebrating today�
The establishment of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarch, is a unique incident in the history.
Eight years after the conquest of Constantinapolis by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, in 1461, he transformed the West Anatolian Archbishopship into the Patriarchship of Istanbul, by a decree. This was a clear evidence of the toleration of Fatih and the successor Ottoman Sultan, towards different religions.
Neither before nor after Mehmed the Conqueror, the world history does not have a second example of a Ruler who granted a religious rank to the believers of another religions.
In the eve of a new millennium, considering the conflicts in the world and our vicinity, we should give this incident, that took place 538 years ago deserved respect as an example of toleration between religions and cultures.
We remember with respect, both Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror who arranged the daily live of the Armenians in the empire, in accordance with their beliefs and traditions, as well as our prior 83 Patriarchs, who served at this post with loyalty, starting with Hovagim of Bursa the Istanbul Armenian Patriarch, who was appointed in 1461.
We the Armenians in Turkey, as the major group of Christians in our country, are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Turkish Republic with happiness and are hopeful for the future.