April 21, 2020 - 12:44 AMT
New round of state–church conflict brewing in Armenia

A new round of conflict is brewing in Armenia between the state and the Church after public accusations were traded between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and a representative of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

A working group on state-church relations was created in January 2019 to tackle disagreements between the authorities and the clergy. The initiative was lauded by the Caholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II.

In a Facebook live broadcast on Monday, April 20 evening, Pashinyan called out what he described as "a scarcity of spiritual life" against "the existence of ideological power" in Armenia.

He said the clergy has reasons to be disappointed.

"The more the authorities try to create values in Armenia, the more it becomes obvious that the spiritual life has big gaps and problems in generating values and ideas," Pashinyan said.

"We more often see politics and political intrigues in what the clergy does, rather than activity based on the Bible and its ideology."

Pashinyan's comments came several days after Karekin II urged the authorities to release the jailed Armenian ex-President amid the spreading coronavirus outbreak in Armenia.

The statement from the Catholicos was met with accusations from the authorities that the Church was trying to meddle in state affairs.

Father Vahram Melikyan, a spokesperson for the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, said on Monday that the Catholicos has only urged the authorities to take care of incarcerated persons, including the second president of Armenia.

"It cannot be interpreted as an attempt by the Church to engage in politics," Father Vahram said in an interview on Armnews TV.

"It is the government's responsibility to ease these public tensions."