The three-day meeting, scheduled 18-20 January 2016 and presided over by Catholicos Aram I, concluded with recommendations on the 19 items on the agenda, which address different manifestations of the mission of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. The three bodies met separately, as joint groups, and in plenary, depending on the topics.
After welcoming the members of the three councils, His Holiness Aram I introduced the agenda and asked the members to keep in mind the stated mission and vocation of the Catholicosate as they consider the Catholicosate’s work from a pan-Armenian perspective. He urged them to approach their work the basis of accountability and responsibility.
At the end of the meetings, the Plenary came to the following conclusions:
- Christian education. They affirmed its importance and inclusion in all forms of Armenian studies especially in the diaspora. They recommended that Armenian Schools should assess the teaching of religion in school curricula, encourage new publications such as Bible studies, and create networks to share lectures and other activities. Dioceses were also urged to promote projects on parish levels.
- Youth concerns should be the focus of parish activities. In seeking new initiatives, the groups should be careful to respond to the changing needs of the youth; the youth should be urged to stay in the church and should be encouraged to read and discuss the writings of His Holiness Aram I in Armenian, English and French.
- Ecumenical Relations. The Catholicosate should continue to work with ecumenical organizations and take part in multilateral and bilateral theological dialogues. Similar initiatives should take place on diocesan levels in response to local religious pluralism.
- Interreligious relations. In view of the global need to address Christian-Muslim relations and encouraged by the long experience of the Catholicosate of Cilicia in interfaith dialogues, the Councils recommended that dioceses initiate similar dialogues in their respective contexts and respond to local challenges.
- Seminary. The seminary is at the core of the mission of the
Catholicosate of Cilicia. Recognizing its important role in preparing clergy to serve the church and the community, His Holiness urged the dioceses to recruit students in order to prepare a new generation of qualified spiritual leaders.
- Courses for Married Priests. The Councils welcomed the progress of the new programme for married priests, which now includes in its curriculum a module in cooperation with the Near East School of Theology in Beirut. Recognizing the importance of qualified married priests to serve in the parishes, the Councils recommended that the Dioceses screen applications locally.
- Bishops Conferences. Recognizing the important role of the Conference towards the renewal of the Church, the Councils recommended that the Conference adopt a more active role in responding to the rising needs of the faithful on the diocesan level.
- Relationships between the Two Catholicosates of the Armenian Church. Recognizing the importance of the relationship between the two Holy Sees for the internal unity of the Church and the nation, the Councils recommended that the internal unity of the Church on the diocesan level be also strengthened, while considering the religio-political differences of the contexts of the two Mother Sees.
- Armenian Catholic and Evangelical Churches. Strengthening the relationship between the three Armenian churches despite confessional differences is a priority. Despite administrative differences, the three churches have common Christian and Armenian roots; therefore building stronger relations on all levels is essential.
- Diakonia. Responding to the social needs is an essential component of the churches’ mission. The Councils expressed their appreciation for the services that the Catholicosate of Cilicia extended to the people through the Azounieh National Hospital, the Home for the Elderly, Birds Nest, and the Low Cost Housing Project. They also recommended that in response to local needs, dioceses take similar initiatives.
- Translation of the Bible into Western Armenian. It was noted that the initial project that began 25 years ago is coming to its completion; the translation of the New Testament completed and the Old Testament was waiting for completion. Acknowledging the importance of reading the Bible in Western Armenian, the Councils recommended that the work be completed soon.
- Spirituality. Considering the new initiatives in spirituality in the community and recognizing its importance and the rich tradition of the Armenian Church, the Councils recommended that bible studies and other activities be organized on the basis of the guidelines prepared by the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
- Constitutional Reform. The Constitution of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, which was adapted from the National Constitution under the Ottoman Empire, had to be amended to respond to changing needs of the dioceses. The Councils recommended that proposals be studied and presented to His Holiness for approval.
- Financial Reports. The Councils received the 2016 expense report with appreciation and approved the 2017 budget. They also recommended the creation of special funds for certain projects in order to release funds to strengthen the mission of the Church.
- Construction and Renovation Projects. The Councils praised the work done in St Mary’s Monastery Bikfaya on the occasion of the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Considering the new proposals, the Councils recommended to find new benefactors.
- Specialized Educational Programmes: The Councils received the reports on the Pedagogical Centre, the Centre for Armenian Studies and the activities of the committee to Protect Western Armenian, and expressed its deep appreciation.
- Construction of the New Cilicia village in Artsakh (Karabagh). The Councils received a progress report on the New Cilicia project sponsored by the Catholicosate of Cilicia, and was informed of the proposed third phase. It recommended that the project continue with the support of dioceses and new donors.
- Report on the lawsuit demanding the return of the Sis Catholicosate in Kozan Turkey. Following the rejection of the application to the Turkish Constitutional Court, the lawyers presented the suit to the European Court of Human Right in Strasbourg on 7 December and made it public on the same day through a Press Conference held in Brussels. The Councils noted the plans for other press conferences to be held in Beirut, Paris and Washington. The Councils also recognized the importance of the initiative and discussed possible ways of supporting the process.
- Reconstruction and Revival of Armenian Communities in Syria. The Catholicos acknowledged the support that Armenians have given their brothers and sisters in Syria for the past five years. The Councils thanked the Catholicos for his pastoral visits first to Latakia and Tartous and then to Aleppo and thanked him as well as for his latest appeal for reconstruction. They affirmed that the revival of Armenian communities in Syria is the responsibility of all Armenians.
- It was decided that to hold the next meeting of the General Assembly of the Catholicosate of Cilicia 5-8 December 2017 in Antelias, Lebanon.