Fired Armenian Priest Fights Back: Calls on Fellow Clergymen to “Support Justice”
An Armenian Apostolic clergyman, who has been dismissed as an Etchmiadzin parish priest in the Dutch city of Maastricht for speaking at demonstration outside the Armenian Embassy in Amsterdam in solidarity with the SasnaDzrer armed group that seized a Yerevan police building in July, has now issued a video-appeal calling on judges not to “sell their conscience” and to find the jailed members of the group not guilty.
In his opening remarks at the Amsterdam demonstration, Father Armen Melkonian called the SasnaDzrer members “heroes”, who have fought in defense of Artsakh in the past and are now struggling for justice in Armenia, and are now being persecuted by the authorities in Armenia.
Father Melkonian in his appeal called “Sincere Words; Our Dreamt About Armenia” (see attached video) has called on his fellow clergymen to take a stand on the side of justice and to visit the injured SasnaDzrer members now jailed and awaiting trial.
In the video, Father Melkonian criticizes successive regimes in Armenia since independence for working against the best interests of the country, thus forcing thousands to leave in an atmosphere of disillusionment and despair. The Armenia of today, according to Father Armen, is the opposite of the “paradise country” the diaspora and the nation has dreamt about.
While Melkonian has been dismissed as a parish priest, he hasn’t been defrocked because he is a member of the Cilician See brotherhood.
To get more on the story, Hetq contacted LevonRafifiSarkis, secretary of the Ani Armenian community organization in Maastricht. Sarkis had recently received a letter from Bishop VahanHovhannessian, Etchmiadzin’s Pontifical Legate of Western Europe, saying that Father Mekonian no longer could serve in any parish in Holland but would remain on the sidelines. In addition, Sarkis must now inform the bishop prior to any church services.
From left: Levon Sarkis, the mayor of Maastricht, Father Armen Melkonian
“In essence, I must write a letter requesting a priest for the Divine Liturgy. Our parish is growing and services are held twice weekly. We organize religious classes, meetings, marriages and funerals. Father Mashdots, who doesn’t have a car, can’t travel 260 kilometers every time,” Sarkis said.
Sarkis added that the parish is upset about what has happened to Father Melkonian and demand answers.
“He hasn’t done anything wrong. The priest has always stood beside his people. Father Armen helps the church and flock, always finding benefactors,” said Sarkis.
Prior to Bishop Hovhanessian’s letter, Father Melkonian served as the visiting priest for the St. Garabed parish in Maastricht, performing marriages, baptisms and the Divine Liturgy.
Photo: Father Armen Melkonian’s Facebook page