Catholicosate of Cilicia
Antelias - Lebanon
His Holiness Aram I made this powerful statement at the conclusion of a discussion with the participants of the Summer Youth Academy and members of the Armenian Church University Students Association (ACUSA) in the courtyard of the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias. The session, which was held on Monday evening, 7th August, was broadcast live on Cilicia TV.
The group, comprised of students from the United States and Canada, who are participating in the two-week event in Antelias on the “Renewal of the Armenian Church,” had asked for the opportunity to discuss their concerns about church renewal with the Catholicos. In a free-ranging, but focused discussion, the students asked the Catholicos some very frank questions, to which His Holiness responded with equally frank answers.
Acting as the hostess of the event, Anna-Marie Danayan, a participant from Rhode Island, thanked the Catholicos on behalf of the students for this opportunity to discuss the topic of church renewal with His Holiness. In his opening comments, Aram I thanked the students for coming to the catholisosate to take the opportunity to learn more about the Church and to engage in the process of church renewal. In his remarks, the Catholicos stressed three main points: The true sense of “the Church as people, ”the dire necessity for church renewal, and the crucial role that youth must take in the work to be done.
Following the Catholicos’s opening remarks, Ms Danoyan invited the participants to open the discussion.
During the subsequent question-answer period, the following points emerged. The Catholicos stated that renewal must be carried out in the spirit of transparency; it must be carried out within the parametres of the parish; it must build from the bottom up; and everyone must remember that the place of the parish priest is not in the office, but in the community. Furthermore, His Holiness Aram I said that the clergy must not isolate the youth and the women. He emphasized that the youth and women are often ignored at the parish level and that such treatment is unacceptable. Addressing the participants as a whole, The catholicos said, “You must not be afraid to challenge the clergy and the committees, and to remind them that you have a special perspective that must be heard.”
“Your concerns are my concerns,” Aram I insisted. “Renewal must be the concern of all Armenians. We are all members of the Armenian Church. Youth play a special place in my thoughts,” His Holiness continued, “and I want to state categorically that I support your full involvement in our renewal work. You should go back home and play a pivotal role at all levels of the work. Renewal should come from the youth and any attempt to marginalize you will not be tolerated. Your expectations and challenges must play a central role in our renewal.”
In his closing statements, the Catholicos said that the Church is not only the building, or the Liturgy, or the clergy; he said, “Liturgy is one expression of the Church, the clergy serves the people, and the people, comprising clergy, committees, catholicos, and the faithful together, are the Church.” He stated that “renewal involves all aspects of the Church and is a continuous and constant process.” He especially stressed that the Armenian Church must engage in a serious way with contemporary issues, such as human sexuality and the environment, and that in these areas our youth have a particularly important role to play.
Ms Danayan closed the session, thanking the Catholicos on behalf of the participants for his support of the youth and for allowing them to address questions to him during this live event.