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Author Topic: National question in Armenian Church  (Read 813 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: November 11, 2010, 02:44:50 PM »

Is it true that only ethnic Armenian can be a priest of Armenian Apostolic Church?
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2010, 03:19:07 PM »

I don't think there is a rule that says that.  It would be hard to be an Armenian priest if you didn't know the Armenian language, but I've never heard that you have to be ethnically Armenian.  St. Gregory the Illuminator, after all, was a Parthian.  Smiley  I know a priest who is half Armenian (dad is Armenian and mom is something else.)  I don't know any priests who are not Armenian at all, but I don't think there is a prohibition against it.  I would be very surprised if such a prohibition existed.

By the way, welcome to the forum!   Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2010, 03:30:02 PM »

Thanks for responce and greeting.
I've found an interview with 2 armenian diakons (http://hayland.am/Blog/ViewPost.aspx?PostID=21252  - in Russian only), and they said that(i.e. only Armenian can be a priest).
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2010, 03:43:55 PM »

Well, I'm glad nobody told that to St. Gregory, or St. Aristakes, or St. Vertanes, or St. Hoosig, or St. Nerses the Great, or St. Sahag Bartev.  They were excellent Armenian Orthodox clergy, but were not ethnically Armenian.   Smiley

I doubt the deacons in the interview can site an actual Church canon to support their claim.
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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2010, 03:58:24 PM »

Is it true that only ethnic Armenian can be a priest of Armenian Apostolic Church?
In part, this might be what you are thinking of:
Quote
Trullo c. 33. Since we have learned as a matter of fact that in the country of the Armenians only those who are of hieratical (or priestly) lineage are eligible to the clergy, pursuantly to Jewish customs, in an attempt to practice these, and that some of them do not even tonsure their Psalts and Anagnosts when installing them in the divine Temple, we have seen fit to concur in decreeing that from now on those who wish to promote certain persons to the clergy are not allowed to pay any regard to the lineage of the ordinee. But, on the contrary, after first testing them as to whether they are worthy according to the definitions laid down in the sacred Canons to be enrolled in the clergy, they shall ordain them ecclesiastics, whether they have been born of ancestors who were priests, or not. Nor, furthermore, shall they permit anyone to speak from the pulpit to the laity the divine words, in accordance with the order of enrollment in the clergy, unless such person has something to show in the way of a priestly tonsure and receives the blessing canonically from the proper pastor. If anyone be caught acting contrary to the rules prescribed, let him be excommunicated.

(Ap. c. LXXVII; c. XIV of the 4th; c. XXIII of Laodicea; c. XXII of Carthage.)


Interpretation.

This Canon too corrects those who inhabit the country of the Armenians, who not only made priests only of those who were descended from a priestly line, following the custom of the Jews, who made priests only of those who were descendants of the tribe of Levi, but also appointed psalts and anagnosts in the church with the formality of the bishop’s laying his hands on them. Decreeing that henceforth they are not to pay regard to whether the candidate for ordination is or is not descended from a priestly line, but are to test him as to whether he is in truth worthy to become a member of the clergy, the Fathers of this Council further decree that they must not let anyone read on the pulpit the divine words to the laity unless he first receives the canonical seal of an anagnost from the prelate. If anyone does anything contrary to these rules, let him be excommunicated.


Concord.

Canon IV of the 7th also prohibits anyone from reading from the pulpit, even though he be a monk, without having received a chirothesy, or imposition of the hands, from the bishop. Canon XXII of Carthage, on the other hand, forbids anagnosts to bow to the laity after reading. Read also Ap. c. LXXVIL
http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/councils_ecumenical_rudder.htm#_Toc34001974

St. Gregory did found a dynasty of Catholicoi, and the office of bishop often did run in families, but so too elsewhere, i.e. Rome, hence "nepotism".

There is a poster who IIRC is now a priest in the Armenian Church who is a convert (although of some Armenian ancestry), Ter Ghazar.
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« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2010, 04:35:50 PM »


Interpretation.

This Canon too corrects those who inhabit the country of the Armenians, who not only made priests only of those who were descended from a priestly line, following the custom of the Jews, who made priests only of those who were descendants of the tribe of Levi, but also appointed psalts and anagnosts in the church with the formality of the bishop’s laying his hands on them. Decreeing that henceforth they are not to pay regard to whether the candidate for ordination is or is not descended from a priestly line, but are to test him as to whether he is in truth worthy to become a member of the clergy, the Fathers of this Council further decree that they must not let anyone read on the pulpit the divine words to the laity unless he first receives the canonical seal of an anagnost from the prelate. If anyone does anything contrary to these rules, let him be excommunicated.


Concord.

Canon IV of the 7th also prohibits anyone from reading from the pulpit, even though he be a monk, without having received a chirothesy, or imposition of the hands, from the bishop. Canon XXII of Carthage, on the other hand, forbids anagnosts to bow to the laity after reading. Read also Ap. c. LXXVIL
http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/councils_ecumenical_rudder.htm#_Toc34001974



St. Gregory did found a dynasty of Catholicoi, and the office of bishop often did run in families, but so too elsewhere, i.e. Rome, hence "nepotism".

This is true, but it is no longer the case.

As you know, before the Armenians were Christian, they belonged to the Zrvanist form of Zorastrianism.  It is my understanding that the Zrvanist priests (magi) were a hereditary class, in that being a magus was something that was passed from father to son. 

What I have heard is that when St. Gregory was Christianizing Armenia he ran into great opposition from the magi, but he was able to eventually get them to convert when he promised that he would make the Christian priesthood an inherited class, and that the sons of the magi would be the first Christian priests.  The first seminary in Armenia, in fact, was set up to educate the sons of the magi in the Christian religion and to train them to be Christian priests. 

When people outside of Armenia heard of this, they found it scandalous.  It was, however, really a brilliant move on St. Gregory's part, in as much as it resulted in most, if not all, of the country's magi converting to the Christian religion, and thus the elimination of much of the opposition that existed to the new Christian religion.  Armenia became much more easy to evangelize once all the pagan priests converted to Christianity.  That would not have happened without the deal St. Gregory made with them.

Eventually, once Armenia was solidly Christian, that rule was dropped.  It's been well over a thousand years since the priesthood was thought of as an inherited class.  In fact, St. Sahag Bartev, who lived about a century after St. Gregory, was the last Catholicos who was descended from St. Gregory.


Quote
There is a poster who IIRC is now a priest in the Armenian Church who is a convert (although of some Armenian ancestry), Ter Ghazar.

I think he is a deacon, but is studying to become a priest.  I'm not sure, though.  It's been a while since I've had contact with him.
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« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2010, 05:12:05 PM »

Btw, Tradition tells us that the Desposynoi, the Lord's brethren after the flesh, ran the Church of Jerusalem and parts of the Near East for centuries.
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If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2010, 08:39:56 AM »

There's no such a canon of the Armenian Church that prohibits a non-Armenian to be ordained as a priest, but there are indeed people among clergy who say so. However, we have a priest in Armenia, Fr Nshan Panfyorov, who is Russian (father is Russian, mother- Armenian). There's another priest too who, as far as I know, is ethnically Russian. One of the Armenian patriarchs of Jerusalem of the 19th century, Patriarch Harutyun Vehapetyan , was ethnically pure Arab, from Muslim parents. He lived in Cairo until the age of 7 and was a poor orphan. The Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Kirakos, if I remember correctly, once visited Egypt and when being in Cairo, met this Muslim boy who helped the Armenian clergy through minor services. When the patriarch learned he was an orphan, asked him if he would like to go with them to Jerusalem to live with them, the boy agreed. So he went to Jerusalem, learned Armenian, was baptized, given a new name, then grew up, became a monk, and one day, among all the other members of the brotherhood, he, perhaps the only non-Armenian, was elected as the next Patriarch. So, none payed attention on his non-Armenian roots. And he was loved by many.
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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2010, 08:47:02 AM »

As for the opinion that the Armenians had some kind of rule to make priests only from priestly families, this is not true. There was such a practice but not a rule. And even now sons of priests often choose to become priests too, like their fathers. And then their sons, most probably, will want to do the same. Isn't this natural? And is this only the practice of the Armenians? Not at all. You'll find such families of priests also in the Russian Church and elsewhere.
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2011, 04:32:09 PM »

Thank you for sharing this story. It found it very inspiring.

There's no such a canon of the Armenian Church that prohibits a non-Armenian to be ordained as a priest, but there are indeed people among clergy who say so. However, we have a priest in Armenia, Fr Nshan Panfyorov, who is Russian (father is Russian, mother- Armenian). There's another priest too who, as far as I know, is ethnically Russian. One of the Armenian patriarchs of Jerusalem of the 19th century, Patriarch Harutyun Vehapetyan , was ethnically pure Arab, from Muslim parents. He lived in Cairo until the age of 7 and was a poor orphan. The Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Kirakos, if I remember correctly, once visited Egypt and when being in Cairo, met this Muslim boy who helped the Armenian clergy through minor services. When the patriarch learned he was an orphan, asked him if he would like to go with them to Jerusalem to live with them, the boy agreed. So he went to Jerusalem, learned Armenian, was baptized, given a new name, then grew up, became a monk, and one day, among all the other members of the brotherhood, he, perhaps the only non-Armenian, was elected as the next Patriarch. So, none payed attention on his non-Armenian roots. And he was loved by many.
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