Armenia: Uproar Over Head of Church's Remarks

Just days after news reports alleged that Karekin II, current head of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church and the nation's spiritual leader, said he had nothing to do with the monasteries and churches located in the mountainous regions of the country, angry Armenians have mobilized a social media campaign to oust the Catholicos [title used for head of church in some Eastern Christian traditions] with a Facebook event entitled ‘Karekin II, Leave! Church is Not a Business.’

The controversy began when historian Samvel Karapetyan was quoted as saying he had suggested that the Catholicos allocate funds for repairing the Sanahin Monastery, a 10th century monastery located in Lori province and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to Karapetyan, the Catholicos responded by saying he did not have anything to do with the site even though it is the property of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The dilapidated medieval Sanahin Monastery at the center of the controversy. Image by Flickr user Rita Wilaert (CC BY 2.0).

The dilapidated medieval Sanahin Monastery at the center of the controversy. Image by Flickr user Rita Wilaert (CC BY 2.0).

The Facebook event suggests that a meeting be held by July 31, 2011, with word being spread via social media, so that the group's complaints can be heard by the Catholicos. Similar pages have popped up, including ‘HERACI-Garegin II,’ [hy] which translates as ‘Leave Garegin II.’ The page is calling for his resignation or removal.

Heriq exav duq mez xaytarak aneq!!! Heraceq!!!

You've caused us enough shame!!! Leave!!!

With 254 ‘likes,’ the page ‘Պահանջում ենք Կաթողիկոսի հրաժարականը,’ (We demand the resignation of the Catholicos) has the most support, while a personal profile called ‘Գարեգին Հեռացի,’ (Garegin, leave) [hy] has also been created.

At time of writing, a Facebook Question asking people if the Catholicos should leave the Armenian Apostolic Church has also attracted the support of well over 2,500 people who selected ‘Yes.’

Calls for his resignation are also making appearances on other social networking and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.

@HimaKaren: Thousands of Armenians demand the impeachment of the spiritual leader of #Armenia Garegin 2. Impeachment!

The Catholicos was elected in 1999, succeeding his Holiness Karekin I, and earlier this year was the center of more controversy when he sought medical treatment outside his native country, leading some blogs such as Unzipped to speculate as to his distrust of the medical profession in Armenia.

Thumbnail image of Sanahin Monastery, Armenia. Image by Flickr user sjdunphy (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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