“A hundred years later, we are still suffering the consequences of the genocide”
Montreal/Rome, Thursday July 9, 2015 – “We were certain that the Pope would remember the genocide, and his courage has changed the attitude of the entire world.” The words are those of Archbishop Minassian, the Ordinary of Eastern Europe for the Armenian Catholics, who was speaking to ACN about the reactions of his community to the statements made by Pope Francis on the anniversary of the Armenian massacre.
The archbishop underlined in particular how Pope Francis “had encouraged us to pursue reconciliation – an act of the highest educational, spiritual and human value, which helps us also to recover what we have lost.”
Archbishop Minassian belongs to the first generation to have succeeded the genocide, and he explains how even those Armenians who did not directly witness the massacre of 1915 nevertheless still suffer the consequences. “Some psychological attitudes, such as the instinctive fear at the sight of an armed guard, have been passed down even to the second and third generations,” he told ACN. The Archbishop is in no doubt as to the responsibility of Turkey. “It is enough to simply observe how the Erdogan government is not controlling its own frontiers. It is testimony to the fact that, after having committed that appalling crime in 1915, Turkey has never changed. I cannot understand how Europe and America can give so much consideration to a criminal country.”
Lack of infrastructure
Recently in Rome for the plenary annual session of ROACO (Riunione delle Opere di Aiuto per le Chiese Orientali) an international symposium of aid agencies for the Oriental Churches, Archbishop Minassian spoke to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), describing the situation of the various Armenian Catholic communities. Although he also has formal jurisdiction in certain countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and in other countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, the Archbishop is principally responsible for the Armenian community in Georgia, Armenia and the Russian Federation. “In the first two countries the Catholic faithful are poorer and have greater need of outside help,” he explained.
Nonetheless, each of the different countries has its own particular problems. In the Russian Federation, for example, the Armenian Church has no juridical status, whereas in Georgia it maintains somewhat complicated relations with the Orthodox Church. “In Armenia the cooperation with the Armenian Apostolic Church is perfect, since there are no differences either of a liturgical or of a sacramental nature.”
Nevertheless, in this mountainous Caucasian nation, the Armenian Catholic Church suffers from a lack of suitable infrastructure. “In the parishes there are no church halls or offices, everything has to be done inside the church itself. Often the priests are obliged to celebrate the Sacred Liturgies in school halls, with the result that we risk being looked upon as a sect.” Moreover, the Catholic Church is not permitted to teach religion in the schools. Only the Armenian Apostolic Church is permitted to teach in the schools – though not catechesis, but rather the history of the Armenian Church.