The long history of the Armenian Apostolic Church, established in 301 AD is full of tumultuous pages. Plots, intrigues, antipatriarchs, exiles, poisoning, treason, corruption, usurpation, resignations and depositions in the Armenian Church have left indelible marks on the history of the Armenian people.
Contrary to common belief, at least 15 times the Supreme Patriacrh’s seat has been vacated by means other than death. These Catholicoi either resigned or were deposed. The first of 132 Catholicoi to resign was Kristapor II Apahooni in 630. The last resignation occurred 1200 years later, when Yeprem I of Tsoragegh resigned in 1830. Five Catholicoi have been deposed, two of whom had usurped the throne. However, there have also been Catholicoi, such as Stephanos I of Dwin (780-790) and Hovhannes VI Medzabaro (1203-1221), who had usurped the seat, but were never deposed.
Below is a list of the Catholicoi of the Armenian Apostolic Church, who left the Patriarchal throne either voluntarily or forcibly:
27th Catholicos: Kristapor II Apahooni resigned in 630;
29th Catholicos: Nerses III of Ishkhan resigned in 652;
55th Catholicos: Vahan I Suni deposed in 969;
58th Catholicos: Sarkis I of Sevan resigned in 1019;
63rd Catholicos: Grigor III Pahlavooni resigned in 1166;
66th Catholicos: Grigor V Karavej deposed in 1194;
71st Catholicos: Constantine II. Pronagordz deposed in 1289;
76th Catholicos: Hakob II of Tarsus was forced to resign in 1341, restored in 1355;
84th Catholicos: Grigor VIII Khantsoghat usurped the see in 1411, deposed in 1418;
87th Catholicos: Grigor IX Moosabeguian resigned in 1441;
88th Catholicos: Kirakos I of Virap resigned in 1443;
92nd Catholicos: Sarkis II Adjakir resigned in 1484;
100th Catholicos: David IV of Vagharshapat resigned in 1629;
117th Catholicos: David V Ghorghanian usurped the See, deposed in 1807;
119th Catholicos: Yeprem I of Tsoragegh resigned in 1830.
Who is next?
The precedence of these resignations and depositions is an indication that death is not the only answer, when a Catholicos is deemed unfit to serve the people and the Church. Today, there is sufficient ground to demand that Karekin II, the 132nd Catholicos of All Armenians, resign or be deposed:
- Karekin II has usurped the Patriarchal seat by intimidating and bribing delegates with the help of the Armenian Government and wealthy donors;
- Karekin II has mismanaged and illegally misappropriated property belonging to the Church and the faithful;
- Karekin II has unlawfully defrocked numerous clergy in violation of the Armenian Church canons;
- Karekin II has condoned election fraud and usurpation of power by Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan. (Details at www.TheTruthMustBeTold.com)
It is high time Karekin II, the current Catholicos of All Armenians, make history by becoming the first Catholicos of the 21st Century to abdicate office. Karekin II may hope to get away with his misdeeds like Catholicos Stephanos I of Dwin, who bribed his way to the throne 1219 years ago and was never deposed. But the Armenian people must not allow history to repeat itself with the perpetrator going unpunished. Karekin II must either become the eleventh Catholicos to resign, or, the third usurper, to be deposed.
Ara K. Manoogian is a human rights activist representing the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation in Artsakh and Armenia; a Fellow of the Washington-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA); creator of www.thetruthmustbetold.com and author of the white paper “To Donate Or Not to Donate”, an in-depth study on the activities of the “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund