In a press release issued by Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on 06 May 2011, by the order of Catholicos Karekin II, Rev. Fr. Abel Manoukian, pastor of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Switzerland since 1995, was suspended from his clerical activities.
The order which came into effect as of May 10, 2011, states that Father Abel is being suspended due to “failure to acknowledge the canonical Diocese of Switzerland, recognize the authority of the appointed Locum Tenens and pastor of the Church of St. Jacob [Sourp Hagop] in Geneva, and not comply with the Pontifical order to return to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin”.
Father Abel has been ordered to return to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin within a week to meet with the Clergy Council. During the period of suspension, the clergyman was prohibited from conducting sacraments and services.
In response, the Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Switzerland, issued on 20 May 2011 an announcement according to which it decided to close the doors of the church.
The Council explained the reasons for closure saying that they have been informed about the suspension of Father Abel through Armenian media, followed by letters of Echmiadzin. It expressed surprise about how Holy Etchmiadzin can order a suspension without quoting any specific reason and without any prior consultation. Father Abel has served in Switzerland for 16 years.
The Council mentioned that another reason for closing the Church was an email from Father Mesrop Parsamyan indicating that he will be the one who will do the services in Saint Jacob church.
The Council underlined that the Catholicos has no power to choose the church's priest, as the church in Switzerland is not part of any diocese.
Ani Avedisyan-Selian, a member of the community wrote on Facebook: “We are outraged and saddened by this biased decision. Our father Abel has served us for the past 16 years with devotion, care and true faith.” She went on questioning the reason behind the defrocking of such persons. According to her, more than 80 priest were defrocked during the reign of the current Catholicos. “Could it be that all of them were bad priests or is he a dictator”, she concludes.
Raffi Garibian, member of the Church Committee of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Switzerland wrote an open letter to Father Abel expressing his shock. “I find this decision not only unjust but also based on unfounded reasons”, he said adding that he finds the decision outrageous, especially considering the attitude of Catholicos who is ignoring reports of unethical behavior of clergymen making the headlines and being involved in business transactions, while defrocking without any reason a priest who has served for 16 years.
Brief biography of Father Abel Manoukian
Father Abel Manoukian was born in Beirut, in 1959. He graduated from the Theological School in Etchmiadzin in 1979 and was ordained as priest in 1980. He followed his studies in the Ecumenical Catholic Theological Faculty in Vienna obtaining Master's degree. From 1989-1991 he lived in Armenia. In 1992 he began his pastoral work in Toronto. From 1992 to 1994 he was teaching at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York. Since 1995 he is the pastor of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Switzerland.
FULL TEXT OF THE PONTIFICAL ORDER
May 5, 2011
Herby, by the order of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, we suspend Rev. Fr. Abel Manoukian from his clerical activities due to failure to; acknowledge the canonical Diocese of Switzerland, recognize the authority of the appointed Locum Tenens and pastor of the Church of St. Jacob in Geneva, and not comply with the Pontifical order to return to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
Rev. Fr. Abel has been ordered to return to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin within a week to meet with the Clergy Council.
May we inform that during the period of suspension, the clergyman is prohibited from conducting sacraments and services, as those will not be recognized as valid.
This order comes into effect as of May 10, 2011
CATHOLICOS OF ALL ARMENIANS
AN OPEN LETTER IN FRENCH BY RAFFI GARIBIAN
Cher Der Abel,
J'ai appris la nouvelle que vous avez ?t? d?froqu?, par SS V?hapar Karekin II, information annonc? sur le site officiel du saint si?ge. Malgr? que cette nouvelle d'extr?me importance n'a pas en…core ?t? confirm? par courrier au conseil de l'?glise apostolique arm?nienne Sourp Hagop ? Gen?ve, je tiens ? m'exprimer a titre personnel et de fid?le de notre l'?glise.
Je suis choqu? par cette nouvelle et je trouve cette d?cision non seulement injuste mais en plus infond?e au regard des raisons invoqu?es.
Car tous les arguments pour justifier cette d?cision, par SS Vehapar Karekin II, sont de la responsabilit? du conseil de l'?glise qui, lui, a appliqu?, comme impos? par la loi, les d?cisions d?mocratiques de l'assembl?e g?n?rale. Je n'ai vu personnellement aucune raison, th?ologique, canonique ou morale, qui puisse justifier une telle sentence. Cette d?cision ? pour unique objectif de punir notre communaut?, qui a manifest? a mainte reprises son d?sir de rester attach? ? une Eglise d?mocratique et populaire.
Je trouve cette d?cision d'autant plus incompr?hensible que des pr?tres qui on eu des comportements amorales ou qui ont fait la une des journaux, m?l? ? des affaires ou qui ont m?me, ?t? mit en examen judiciaire n'ont nullement ?t? inqui?t? par leur hi?rarchie.
Je tiens, cher Der Abel, ? vous assurer de ma sympathie et de mon soutien inconditionnel.
Je souhaite que tous ceux qui partagent ma position ?crivent aussi ? Der Abel en l'assurant de leur soutien. Cette lettre ouverte, doit ?tre adress? en copie au plus grand nombre, afin que nous obtenions une mar?e de sympathie.
J'autorise ? publier ce courriel.
Avec mes meilleures salutations
Membre du Conseil de l'?glise Apostolique Arm?nienne de Suisse