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Armenian Patriarchate Concern Over Status Quo Violation


Armenian News Network / Groong
April 22, 2008

by Arthur Hagopian


        For Christians all over the world in general, and the faithful
who hold the fort in the Holy Land in particular, Easter should be the
most sublime of all feasts in their religious calendar. But often it
is not, its sanctity marred by internecine conflict.
        The festive season that begins with Maundy Thursday, which
marks the washing of the feet of the 12 Disciples, commemorates the
resurrection of Jesus Christ and is meant to engender a rebirth of
faith and belief in the religion of peace he preached two thousand
years ago.
        Jerusalem, regarded as the center of the world by the three
Guardians of the sacred sites in the Holy Land (the Latin Catholic,
the Greek and Armenian churches), literally erupts into a frenzy of
religious zeal over the two week period of the festivities.
        The euphoria is palpable in every alley, every nook and cranny
of the Old City where the tomb of Christ is traditionally said to be
located. And it is often transmuted into violence, with sometimes very
unpleasant aftereffects.
        The three Guardians endeavor to keep relations among the
various Christian churches harmonious, but it is a daunting task
because of territorial jealousies, church sources say.
        The Guardians enjoy exclusive proprietary rights, guaranteed
by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Abdul Majid, under a "status quo"
arrangement which encapsulates a pledge made over 150 years ago by the
ruling potentate, and which "defines, regulates and maintains, without
change" these rights.
        But occasionally, these precepts are violated, often with
bloody results.
        The most recent violation, during the Orthodox Palm Sunday,
was perpetrated by the Greeks, within the Holy Sepulcher cathedral,
the Armenians charge.
        According to a statement by the Armenian Patriarchate of
Jerusalem, a Greek monk positioned himself within the Edicule, a
vestibule that lies just outside the entryway to the Tomb of Christ,
during the Armenian solemn procession.
        "Armenian priests persuaded the Greek monk to exit from the
Edicule and peacefully led him out," it said.
        However, it claims the Israeli Police then interfered and
attempted to reinstate the monk inside the Edicule, but were met by a
fierce protests from the Armenian clergymen, resulting in a scuffle
between the two sides.
        The Armenian Patriarchate labeled the presence of the Greek
monk inside the Edicule as a serious violation of the "status quo."
        It said it had made its position clear that on the Feast of
the Holy Cross, the 1st Sunday of Great Lent, Palm Sunday and Holy
Fire Saturday, when the Armenians are "in possession" of the Holy
Tomb, the Greeks should refrain from placing their monk inside the
        The rights of the Armenian Orthodox church in the Holy Places
have been enshrined in an 1829 "Firman" (official edict) that
stipulates that "no interference or intervention should ever be
allowed to occur in respect of the celebration of mass and other
processions of the [Armenian] community".
        "The Armenian Patriarchate views the presence of the Greek
monk inside the Edicule not only as blatant interference but also as
yet another attempt to challenge the well-established rights of the
Armenians, which have been recognized and preserved for centuries,"
the Armenian Patriarchate said.
        The entitlement of the Armenians to exclusivity in the Holy
Sites on the dates in question is clearly described in the 1890 "Book
of Ceremonies in the Holy Places" and states unequivocally that
"during the days that Armenians have solemn religious ceremonies the
Greek monk has no right to enter the Edicule."
        The Patriarchate noted that "this latest incident comes on the
heels of another dispute with the Greek Orthodox concerning the Holy
Fire Ceremony on Holy Saturday that has remained unresolved since 2002
despite attempts by the Armenian Patriarchate to seek mediation
through Israeli authorities."
        It pointed out that hundreds of Armenian worshippers from
Jerusalem and throughout the world are expected at the Church of the
Holy Sepulcher for the upcoming Holy Fire Ceremony on Holy Saturday
which falls on April 26.
        "The Armenian Patriarchate shares the concern of the Armenian
world community that Armenian worshippers may be unable to attend
freely services to be held in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Holy
Saturday, one of the holiest days of the Armenian religious calendar,"
the statement said.

© Copyright 2008,  Armenian News Network / Groong, and Author.

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