Catholicos Karekin II ends a one week visit to Turkey

Catholicos Karekin II ends a one week visit to Turkey

VISIT OF CATHOLICOS KAREKIN II TO ISTANBUL IN JUNE 2006On 20 June 2006, Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians departed for Istanbul, Turkey for a 7 day Pontifical Visit.  His Holiness was traveling to Turkey upon the joint invitation of Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople; and Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.


During this first visit to Turkey, the Catholicos of All Armenians visited Armenian churches and holy shrines, extended his blessings to the Armenian community of Istanbul, and met with Armenian intellectuals and young men and women. 


First day of the visit

Upon arrival at the Istanbul airport in the evening of 20th June 2006, Karekin II was greeted by Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, two metropolitan archbishops representing the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate and representatives of the Armenian community of Istanbul (see below Turkish press reports on nationalist extremists protesting in the Airport and obliging the guests to take another way out of the airport, under tight security measures).


During the official reception and dinner at the Armenian Patriarchate on the same evening, Patriarch Mutafian greeted the Catholicos of All Armenians and welcomed him and his accompanying clergymen to Istanbul.  Karekin II thanked Almighty God for having granted him this opportunity to meet the faithful Armenian people of this historic city.


Second day of the visit 

In the morning of 21 June 2006, Karekin II visited the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and participated in Morning Services at the Greek Mother Cathedral.  His Holiness noted, “…Our predecessors [Karekin I] of blessed memory have visited Your All Holiness and your revered predecessors.  We visit a Church, with whom we have shared a history of accomplishments and achievements, persecutions, suffering and martyrdom, prayer and witness, and which is alive in our hearts and minds today”. 


In his remarks, Karekin II recalled the historic visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Armenia in November of 2001, during the jubilee festivities surrounding the 1700th Anniversary of official Christianity in Armenia.  


At the conclusion of the official reception, a personal meeting occurred between the two delegations, whereupon general inter-church and specifically Armenian and Greek relations were discussed.


Remaining days of the visit

On 22 June 2006 Catholicos Karekin II, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian visited Halki Island in the Sea of Marmara. The island houses the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Monastery (Agia Triada) and the famous Theological School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (now closed by the Turkish authorities. See below Turkish press reports on nationalist extremists protesting in the island of Halki and hitting one old Armenian woman).


The metropolitan abbot of the monastery stated that the visit of Catholicos Karekin II was a visible manifestation of the warm relations between the Greek and Armenian communities of Istanbul. Catholicos Karekin II noted that he prays for the re-opening of the Theological Seminary. The Armenian and Greek delegations then visited the historic library on the island and toured the grounds of the monastery.


In the afternoon, the entourage traveled to Kinali, an island with a high Armenian population, and visited the Armenian church of St. Gregory the Illuminator.  Many Armenians had gathered in the church to greet the three leaders. Catholicos Karekin II noted his admiration for the Armenian community of Istanbul, stating that they are well known throughout Armenian life for their steadfast faith and love for national, cultural and spiritual traditions.  His Holiness spoke of the countless contributions made by the Armenians of Istanbul throughout history, and that today, they are the ones who help keep the Christian presence of Istanbul alive. The Armenian Pontiff then invited Bartholomew I to join him and Patriarch Mesrob at the Holy Altar of the Church of St. Gregory.


On the same day Karekin II visited the Mother Cathedral of St. Asdvadzadzin (Holy Mother of God) in Kumkapi, Istanbul. In attendance were high-ranking clergy of the Armenian Patriarchate, representatives of Sister Churches, Mr. Karen Mirzoyan (Representative of the Republic of Armenia in Turkey), and countless Armenian faithful, many who had come to see the Catholicos of All Armenians for the first time.


Karekin II made the following remarks:

“Five Patriarchs of Constantinople were called to become Catholicos of All Armenians. Only after kneeling down before this Holy Altar and asking for the intercession of the Holy Mother of God on behalf of the Armenian nation, did they depart to sit on the Throne of the Illuminator.  In difficult times, our luminous and brave-hearted Pontiffs protected our people and kept them gathered around Holy Etchmiadzin with the hope and belief in salvation.  And now from the Throne of the Illuminator ? the holy cradle of our faith ? Holy Etchmiadzin, we have come to see you. We have come so that Pontiff and flock can be united once again with the same oath of our holy fathers.


Connected with the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople are the brightest achievements of our culture ? in literature, art, music and architecture…


It is with these emotions that we have come to visit you, to see our ancient, incense-filled churches, which remain vibrant through your presence.  We came to see our educational and cultural institutions, which continue to remain alight through your vigilant efforts. 


We have brought the greetings from your brothers and sisters in Armenia, Artsakh and the Dispersion, who are always with you in their warmest of prayers.  We have also brought the optimism of the reborn new life of our homeland, and our people?s hopes for strengthening our unified spiritual and cultural life…”


At the conclusion of the service Bishop Aram Ateshian, a member of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, was elevated to the rank of ?Archbishop? by His Holiness Karekin II. 


Visit to other Armenian churches and institutions

On 23 June 2006 Catholicos Karekin II visited the Church of St. Asdvadzadzin (Holy Mother of God) in Baklkyugh, Istanbul, as well as the Dadian National Academy adjacent to the church. His Holiness was escorted to the hall of the school and enjoyed a program presented by the students of the Academy.  The St. Asdvadzadzin Church and the Dadian Academy are located in a section of Istanbul which has the second highest Armenian population.


Karekin II spoke to the 400 students, as well as the teachers, administrators and hundreds of faithful, emphasizing the important role that the Armenians of Istanbul have played in the life of the nation for more than 500 years, noting that they have brought honor to the Armenian people through their spiritual and cultural activities.  


The entourage next traveled to the Holy Savior National Hospital (Sourp Pergitch), where they were greeted by Mr. Bedros Shirinoghlu, chairman of the Pontifical Visit Committee and a trustee of the hospital.  Archbishop Mesrob introduced the history of the hospital to the guests, informing them that it was established more than 175 years ago and remains through the present day as the largest Armenian national institution in Turkey.  His Beatitude also noted that it was the first hospital founded in the Ottoman Empire, and continues its mission of providing health care to the Armenian community of the country.  The Holy Savior Hospital, in addition to providing health care to children and adults, also operates a home for the aged and a center for physically disabled children.


In the hospital?s chapel, His Holiness presided during a requiem service offered in memory of all past benefactors of the institution. Karekin II made a tour of the hospital?s museum.


In the afternoon Catholicos Karekin II visited the Church of St. Kevork in Samatia, which until the year 1641, had been the headquarters of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.  His Holiness Karekin II blessed the countless Armenians who had gathered to see him. He visited the historic Sahakian National Academy, which is located adjacent to the church, and met with the students, teachers and administrators of the institution.


Visit to the Governor of Istanbul

On the same day (23 June 2006) His Holiness Karekin II visited Mr. Muammer G?ler, Governor of Istanbul, at the governor?s office. The Catholicos of All Armenians expressed his happiness to be in Istanbul through the joint invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, and noted his pleasure to have the opportunity to closely know the Armenian community of Istanbul.


In his remarks, His Holiness Karekin II stated his awareness of the achievements of the Armenian community of Istanbul in its national and spiritual life.  He also noted that there are certain issues which exist in the Armenian community related to properties and educational matters, and expressed his hope that they will find their positive solutions.


Governor G?ler welcomed the visit of the Pontiff of All Armenians to Istanbul, and conveyed his hope that the relations between the Armenian and Turkish peoples will improve.


Press conference in Istanbul

Karekin II:  Genocide is not a matter for debate


On Sunday, June 25, following a Pontifical Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of St. Asdvadzadzin of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, participated in a press conference organized on the occasion of his visit to Istanbul (see complete text of the press conference at the end of this article).


Present for the press conference were both Armenian and Turkish journalists.  During the conference, a number of questions were asked regarding the pontifical and inter-church visit of His Holiness.


In response to a question by a Turkish journalist regarding the Genocide of the Armenians, the Catholicos of All Armenians stated, “The Armenian Genocide is a reality that happened and can never be an item for debate”.  Regarding a follow-up question about how relations between the Armenian and Turkish peoples could be improved, the Pontiff of All Armenians stressed the necessity for the Republic of Turkey to come to terms with its past and recognize the Armenian Genocide.


Responding to another question regarding the convening of conferences about the events that occurred in the final days of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, His Holiness noted, “It shall be possible to welcome similar initiatives if they are intended to present the actuality of the Genocide to Turkish society”.


End of the Pontifical visit to Istanbul

Catholicos Karekin II returned to Etchmiadzin in the early morning hours of 28 June 2006. The 7 day visit included a two day fraternal visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch, followed by five days with the Armenian community of Istanbul and the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.


Although His Holiness' flight arrived in Yerevan in the middle of the night, waiting for him in the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin at 4:00 AM, were hundreds of faithful who had come to welcome him home.  His Holiness? procession was escorted into the Mother Cathedral under the singing of the “Hrashapar” hymn. His Holiness Karekin II joyfully reflected on the enthusiastic reception he received from the Armenian community of Istanbul. “We communed with 600 years of history and treasures of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.”


The Pontiff of All Armenians stated with contentment that the Armenian community of Istanbul, a community that lives, breathes and speaks Armenian, is active today with a vibrant national life.  The community has 39 churches, 17 Armenian schools and many institutions, the largest of which is the Holy All-Savior National Hospital.  His Holiness also fondly recalled his meetings with Armenian intellectuals and youth of Istanbul.


In reply to the concerns about the prospect that His Holiness? statements on the Armenian Genocide could negatively affect the attitude of the Turkish authorities towards the Armenians of Turkey, the Catholicos stated, “We do not believe that our thoughts and words can affect the attitude of the authorities towards our Armenians in Istanbul, because we never expressed hatred or enmity, we simply stated the reality and the truth.  Taking into account the process of democratization, which the Turkish authorities desire to achieve in their country, we also do not believe that extremist nationalistic forces will succeed in sowing hatred and enmity toward the Armenians or other minorities living in Turkey.”



His Holiness continued, stating that as many countries have recognized the Genocide of the Armenians, so too must Turkey recognize the Genocide, for which there exists no need for deliberations.


Regarding the protests that had been organized in Istanbul during his visit, noting that the Turkish authorities characterized them as the “actions of extremist groups”, His Holiness emphasized that in no way did they diminish his impressions from the trip.  Due to the unprecedented security measures which were implemented, they did not obstruct the activities of the Pontifical Visit and generally remained unnoticed by the delegation.



Excerpts from the Turkish press


Armenian Spiritual Leader in Istanbul

By Zaman, Istanbul, 21 June 2006


Head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II, came to Istanbul Tuesday as a guest of Turkey?s Armenians Patriarch Mesrop II and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.


Karekin II, who traveled from Erivan on Armenian Airlines, was expected to leave the airport via the VIP Hall at Istanbul?s Ataturk Airport, but left instead in a vehicle convoy for security reasons. A crowd of nearly 50 gathered at the airport protested the arrival of Karekin II.


Bartolomeos meets head of Armenian Orthodox Church

By Turkish Daily News, 22 June 2006


Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I urged the world's Orthodox churches to minimize differences and seek solidarity, as he met with the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church yesterday in Istanbul.


Karekin II arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday for a week-long visit to the Armenian community here and to have talks with Bartholomew I. Both Armenians and Greeks had huge roles in the history of the city, though their numbers have dwindled to just a few thousand.


Police tightened security to protect the visiting cleric from Turkish nationalists who protested his arrival on Tuesday night, prompting the police to accompany Karekin II out of the airport through a separate entrance.


Karekin II has angered Turks by saying their ancestors committed genocide against Armenians around the time of World War I, an allegation vehemently denied by Turkey.


Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with Armenia, denies that Turks committed genocide, saying Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire were killed in internal fighting among ethnic groups as the empire collapsed.


Karekin blesses Turkey?s Armenians

By Turkish Daily News, 26 June 2006


The head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II, yesterday led a Sunday service at the Armenian Patriarchal church in Istanbul.


Karekin blessed worshippers yesterday of the Armenian community in Istanbul who formed a long queue at the church in the Kumkapı district, following the three-hour Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass (Soorp Badarak), which is the main service in the Armenian church on Sundays, starting at 10:30 a.m.


High security precautions were taken near the church, the Anatolia news agency reported.


On Thursday, a group led by Kemal Kerin?siz, president of the Turkish Lawyers' Union – which describes itself as a ?nationalist? organization – protested Karekin II during his visit to the currently closed Heybeliada (Halki) Greek Orthodox Seminary.


By BIA News Center

26 June 2006


Rightwing Jurists Union members lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz and have staged an attack on an old woman during the visit of head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II to the Heybeliada (Halki) Island, 20 miles to the south of İstanbul on Marmara Sea.


Lawyer Kerin?siz and friends are a unique group of fierce nationalists who fight against liberal reforms along Turkey's EU membership bid. They were responsible for the ban on the Ottoman Armenians Conference in Istanbul after a complaint to a local administrative court and as well as a series of criminal complaints against a number of leading intellectuals including author Orhan Pamuk and journalist Hrant Dink,


Attempting to stage a protest against Karekin II, the group of nationalists attacked the unidentified woman in front of witnesses when she verbally objected to their presence and said “don?t disturb us, just go”.


Witnesses of the incident said the person in the group who hit the woman on her face was Muammer Kocadagli who was briefly detained and released after opening a protest placard near the Aya Triada Monastry. Police on the scene detained one suspect and escorted the woman to safety.


Police on the island had to barricade the roads from the Heybeliada port to the Clergy school when the group attempted to march there. Attorney Kerincsiz, who?s acts at court against Turkish intellectuals and freedom of expression defendants have reached aggressive proportions, told the police if they were not allowed to march, he would go to the school using a horse coach. The police told him to go to Buyukada where he could travel in a coach.


The first visit to Turkey by the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church triggered protests by ultra-nationalist and Islamist Turkish groups immediately after his arrival in Istanbul last Tuesday from the Armenian capital, Yerevan.


At the airport Karekin II was greeted by dozens of protestors waving Turkish flags and boasting a banner “We won't let any Christian clergyman into our homeland!” Police had to intervene and escorted the cleric out of the terminal using another door after detaining four protestors.


Armenian Patriarch Karekin II defends Armenian claims in Turkey

By Melike Duransoy

Journal of Turkish Weekly, 27 June 2006


Karekin II, currently on a visit to Turkey, on Sunday said that Ankara should recognize the so-called Armenian genocide of 1915.


Speaking at a press conference after conducting a mass in an Armenian church in Istanbul, Karekin II said the allegations of genocide against the Ottoman Empire?s Armenian community had been studied for 90 years by academics and there is no for any discussion or any more study on the issue.


“For our people the genocide is not an issue of research,” he said. “This is an incident that has happened and it has to be recognized.”


Karekin II said that Armenia was very willing to develop relations with Turkey and stressed that if the two countries worked together constructive solutions could be found to the problem.


In response to Turkey giving high points to Armenia in the Eurovision Song Contest, Karekin II said that this should be seen as a positive step.


Turkish experts however argue that Karekin II is lucky because he was speaking in a 'democratic country'[!]. Dr. Nilgun Gulcan for instance told the JTW that no Turkish could defend Turkish perspective in Armenia. Dr. Gulcan further says: “You may find any pro-Armenian book in Turkish bookstores and you can freely defend the Armenian or any other perspectives in Turkey. Almost all ?genocide? literature has been translated Turkish language. We clearly understood what the Armenians think about the 1915 Events. But Armenians have no idea about Turkish perspective. They do not listen. They think that, if they listen to the Turks, they would commit a great sin. You have to risk your life to defend Turkish perspective in Armenia. No Turk defending Turkish perspective could go to Armenia.”


According to Dr. Sedat laciner from Ankara-based Turkish think tank USAK, the Armenian approach regarding the past is “shut-up-and-accept-it” policy. “They do not listen to what you say. They try to order Turkish people to accept what they think. This is not the best way to develop any co-operation” Dr. Laciner says.


Patriarch Mesrob II: I do not agree with Karekin II's comments

By Hurriyet, 28 June 2006


Patriach Mesrob II, the leader of the Armenian Orthodox community in Turkey, has commented on his differing views from those expressed last week by Catholicos Karekin II, the world leader of the Armenian Orthodox Church, who was in Istanbul last week for a visit.


Karekin II held a press conference at the Armenian Patriarchate on Sunday during which he called on Turkey to officially recognize the events of 1915 as genocide against the Armenians. Mesrob II had subsequently commented to the press that his perspective on the matter differs from that of Karekin II's, and that the Turkish-Armenian relationship is not solely based on incidents which took place between 1890-1923.


Responding to reporters' questions about what he thought of Karekin II's statements about genocide, Mesrob II said: “How can I comment on those statements? I guess I could say they were as I expected they would be. At the press conference at which Karekin II spoke, TV cameras from the Armenian station Shoghagat were present. All of the Diaspora watches Shoghagat TV. So Karekin knew the public he was addressing with his comments. I think differently on the matter, as I have said many times in the past. The disaster of 1915 should be examined on separate platforms by politicians, historians, diplomats, and sociologists. This would be very helpful in terms of creating empathy and understanding, rather than enmity.”

Official English Transcript of the Press Conference by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians at the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople

Kumkapi, Istanbul, Turkey

25 June 2006


The moderator of the press conference was Ms. Luiz Bakar, spokesman for the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.  His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople introduced His Holiness.


His Beatitude Mesrob Mutafian:  Welcome, dear friends.  His Holiness has allocated one half hour from his itinerary for today to be with you.  He is here on a pontifical visit upon the joint invitation of the Greek Patriarch and the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople.  He will be with us until June 27.  Prior to his visit, a number of strange news stories appeared in various media and news outlets, which caused us amazement.  The articles had stated that the Armenian community and the Patriarchate were anxious with this visit; however there was no such unease in the community.  Up until this point, the visit has been progressing as planned.  The first two days of the visit, the Catholicos was the guest of the Greek Patriarch, according to their itinerary; thereafter we visited Armenian churches and the sites and museums of Istanbul together.  Since our time is limited, I request that there be no repetitions of questions.  You may now ask any questions which you desire.


Question:  Your Holiness, you are here as the guest of the Greek Patriarch.  He is making efforts directed at bringing the two Churches closer.  What is your opinion on this and what will be the steps you implement?


His Holiness Karekin II:  We are visiting Constantinople upon the invitation of the Armenian Patriarch and the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch.  We have come on a pontifical visit to the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople and a fraternal visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  As part of our visit (with the Ecumenical Patriarch), there were meetings between the clergy of our Churches, where we discussed the theological and dogmatic issues about which there has been ongoing dialogue for quite a long time; meetings have occurred and will continue to take place.  The purpose of our visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch was the reinforcement and strengthening of the brotherly ties between our sister Churches, as well as the continuation of the existing collaboration between our Churches with a new spirit and new warmth.


Question:  During your meeting with the Governor of Istanbul, you stated that you are pleased with the regular (airline) flights between Yerevan and Istanbul, however similar steps must continue.  What do mean by ?steps??


His Holiness Karekin II:  We expressed our satisfaction that Yerevan-Istanbul flights occur regularly.  As you are aware, our country ? the Republic of Armenia ? is inclined to improve relations with Turkey, and we are certain that as a result (of those improved relations) we will find solutions.  We shall be able to concurrently search for and find solutions to the issues that exist in the relationship between our two peoples, one example being the issue of the Genocide, of which you are aware.


Question:  As you just mentioned, the issue of the Genocide exists between Turkey and Armenia.  We, meaning the opinion of Turkish society, are not limited by the Armenians of Armenia.  We see three groups of Armenians:  Diaspora, Armenians of Turkey, and Armenia.  What are your thoughts?  During these deliberations, whom must Turkey consider?  And the Armenians, whom do they consider ? the Turkish government or??  As you know, this issue is being discussed in certain Turkish intellectual circles.  In different universities, specifically the University of Bilgi, this issue has been discussed during different symposia where the Armenian Patriarch Mutafian was also present.  Taking the aforementioned into consideration, I want to ask two questions:  Who must represent the Turkish and Armenian sides and what steps must be taken?  And the second question, how do you evaluate the atmosphere of democratic debate in Turkey?


His Holiness Karekin II:  We are one people; dispersed throughout the world.  However, we are a people that have statehood.  And naturally, the Republic of Turkey can discuss these issues and find solutions with the Republic of Armenia.  For 90 years, the issue of the Genocide has been researched by the academics of the world, and manifold volumes have been written.  For our people, the Genocide is not a matter for research ? it is a reality of fact that happened, which must be recognized.  That (recognition) is naturally the desired option, but a negative position can also be taken on this issue.


If academic conferences in Turkey are intended to present the actuality of the Genocide to Turkish society, then it shall be possible to welcome them.  If they are politically motivated, to further the position of denial, naturally that won?t have a positive influence on resolving this issue.  We are satisfied to see that in the life of Turkish society, within democratization processes, people are speaking and reflecting on the issue of the Genocide during the First World War to a certain extent.


Question:  During his meeting with the governor of Istanbul, the Catholicos stated, ?A certain amount of progress is noticeable in Turkish society.  If necessary steps are taken, everything can be much better.?  These words were translated by (Armenian Patriarch) Mutafian.  What is lacking in the life of Turkish society and what did you have in mind?


His Holiness Karekin II:  During our conversation with the governor, we have said that we are pleased, that in the life of ethnic and religious minorities, as it relates to the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, some concerns are receiving their positive solutions.  We can see that for many decades, it was impossible to renovate the (headquarters of the) Patriarchate, and today we see it restored.  Permission has been granted, and churches are being repaired.  However, we noted that there are a certain number of other concerns, the resolution of which would benefit the greater strengthening of community life.  For example, among these issues are property rights and organizational matters for educational activities.


Question:  The Catholicos stated that the two states must discuss the issue of the Genocide.  However in recent times, discussions were held in Turkey when two Armenians of Turkey participated, among them Hrant Dink.  The law which was being debated in France, whereby the deniers of the Genocide would be held criminally liable, was opposed by nine Turkish intellectuals who sent a letter to France.  They asserted that expressing a viewpoint about the Genocide must not have consequences.  This is one example of the fact that Turkey and Armenia are not alone in debating this issue, and that there are other states, which make decisions in their parliaments about the Genocide.  In this regard, the issue assumed an international character.  What is your opinion?  Is it correct for other states to be drawn into this matter?


His Holiness Karekin II:  Genocide against any nation is not limited to the life or borders of one people.  Genocide does not recognize ethnicity.  Genocide envelopes all of mankind.  And for that reason, when similar actions are being committed in any corner of the world, states and nations raise their voices in condemnation, to prevent similar incidents in the life of mankind.  Only in this manner will it be possible to keep mankind free from similar tragedies. 


Regarding the first part of the question, that should only Turkey and Armenia be concerned with this issue, we wish to further clarify that the Armenian people have statehood.  But the issue concerns all Armenians.  Armenians dispersed throughout the world.  Every single individual Armenian.  However the body that represents the rights of the nation, and guarantees those rights, obviously, is the state.


Question:  The Catholicos says that the issue of the Genocide for Armenian society is not one that needs research, rather it is reality.  Does this position not obstruct the resolution of this issue, perhaps, since the Turkish side continues to deny the Genocide?  In other words, is it not possible to study the Genocide?


His Holiness Karekin II:  Obviously, if Turkey denies (the Genocide), it is impossible to resolve this issue.  If the facts are present, then what?s the point in discussing the necessity to debate the facts?  There must be the will to record, confirm and accept the facts.


Question:  What do you propose as a way of resolving this issue?


His Holiness Karekin II:  We believe that as many states and countries have done, Turkey also has the capability to conduct the corresponding studies, and add its name to that list of many countries, by recognizing the Armenian Genocide.  Armenia has never held similar deliberations with any of the other countries who have recognized and condemned the Armenian Genocide.  Because the facts exist, they can be studied, and based upon those facts, a decision and position can be made.  This cannot be or be proposed to be an issue which necessitates discussions.


Question:  You say that to keep humanity free from the repetition of similar sorrows, that they must be studied and accepted.  But have you ever made a statement regarding the events taking place in Iraq, which is very close to both Turkey and Armenia?  As you are aware, the intervention of the United States of America is present there.  What do you think about this, and what are you doing about it?


His Holiness Karekin II:  We as a Church, express our voice of indignation on every occasion when a hand is raised against the greatest treasure of God?s creation ? human life.


Question:  You visited the seminary on the Island of Halki.  What are you thoughts, since that seminary is not operating at present?


His Holiness Karekin II:  I am pleased with the process of democratization which is taking place today in the Republic of Turkey.  And I am certain that in time, all those issues will find their positive solutions.


Question:  Did you like Istanbul?


His Holiness Karekin II:  We have not had the opportunity to see Istanbul.  But in these past few days, we mentioned in our remarks that in Istanbul, there are many valuable and beautiful buildings, churches, etc.  However, the most valuable, the most beautiful for me is our people, our community, for whom we are conducting our Pontifical Visit.  Having this as our primary concern, naturally, we have allocated all of our time for the strengthening of the spiritual life of our people and to the work of reinforcing their faith.  Nevertheless, I am certain that another opportunity will be created, and we shall be able to have the necessary amount of time to see the sights of Istanbul.  For example, yesterday, we were able to visit the Dolmabah?e palace museum and the Hagia Sophia, which greatly impressed us.


Question:  There is a report that you desired to pray when at the Hagia Sophia, but were prohibited from doing so.


His Holiness Karekin II:  We are not aware of any such occurrence.


Question:  From the first day of your visit, there have been protest demonstrations.  What do you think about this?


His Holiness Karekin II:  The protest demonstrations in no way affected neither our mood nor our mission.  We would prefer that there be no place for similar demonstrations in the relationship between our two peoples.  We are destined to live side by side as neighbors, and therefore it is necessary to cultivate, educate and nurture appropriate relationships between neighboring peoples.  I am convinced that in my next trip, we won?t see similar demonstrations or expressions.  And even if there are protests such as these, we must understand that we still have work to do, both of us together, to exclude similar occurrences.


Question:  During the Eurovision competition, Turkey gave 10 points to Armenia.  How do you evaluate this fact?


His Holiness Karekin II:  We see nothing negative in this.


Question:  Is this perhaps a step forward on the part of Turkey?


His Holiness Karekin II:  Of course, it is a step, which must be positively assessed.  God willing, that this positive course leads us to the resolution of the fundamental issue.


Question:  Although your visit was not ?official? in nature, you were received by the governor of Istanbul.  An occurrence such as this has not happened since 1961.  What do you think about this?  Do you asses this as a positive step?  Were there any other similar offers?  If yes, then for what reason did they not occur?


His Holiness Karekin II:  We recognize our meeting with the governor as a display of his appreciation for the Armenian community, and their important contributions and service to the life of Turkish society.  We have not had nor do we have any objections to meeting with any state official, whether the suggestion is made by our community or by any other entity.  There was the concept, at one time, to organize a meeting with the religious leader of Turkey, but it became unfeasible to bring it to fruition.  The reasons being that the congestion of our itinerary for this trip did not provide the opportunity.


We express our thanks for this meeting and for such an open discussion.  We wish you all the best.





First raw from left to right: Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, Catholicos Karekin II, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Second raw: high ranking clergies of the Armenian Church.

Catholicos Karekin II (left) and Archbishop Mutafian (right)