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Working Group on State-Church Relations holds first meeting


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The first meeting of the Working Group on State-Church Relations was held in the Office of Government, chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Garegin II.

In his speech, Prime Minister Pashinyan stated, in part:
“Your Holiness
Spiritual fathers,
Dear government representatives,

I am pleased with our meeting today and I consider it very important. As a result of discussions held with His Holiness, we concluded that it was necessary to set up a working group to review the relations between the Government of the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church in order to have a permanent working format to discuss and resolve emerging issues.

It is also desirable that these decisions are not partial or short-term, but institutional and long-term. In this regard, I consider it extremely important that, in the context of these discussions, we combine our understanding of State-Church relations in the context of the new situation in the Republic of Armenia. Of course, there is no need to talk about the great importance and the role of the Armenian Apostolic Church for our nation. I want to say that a key provision in the electoral program of My Step Alliance, which is the ruling political force in Armenia, has been the preservation of our national identity. This very provision has been stipulated in the program of our political force since 2013. Indeed, this is a basic priority for us and, the Armenian Apostolic Church has always played a unique role in this respect. However, we likewise need to understand to what extent our views coincide in terms of preserving identity and what issues exist in this context that we should discuss.”

For the work of the working group to be effective, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of in-depth discussion and the full understanding of issues.

“We need to come to common solutions over the problems we are facing today, taking as a starting point our national and state interests. It is necessary to try to understand the situation today and listen to each other’s arguments, so that any decision might be based on arguments, that is, we must get out of the situation where we used to make arbitrary decisions. For example, the Mother See suggests teaching the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church in our schools. In this context, the first question is whether we should set a distinction between the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the history of the Armenian people, and if we do, why and how we put this distinction, and so on.

The next group of questions is related to tax relations. For instance, there is a problem with the taxing of Church-owned real estate, and we need to understand what our approach is in this matter. Is the property belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church homogeneous in this sense, or are there different segments, and should a differentiated or general approach be provided to these segments?

During the conversations held with His Holiness, I touched on this topic several times. Especially as we have launched a large-scale campaign calling on citizens to pay taxes, because taxes eventually result in the amounts that the Government can spend to achieve its objectives.

We must clearly state here that we need to be backed by the Armenian Apostolic Church for this perception to take root deeper and deeper into our reality. And, thank God, our appeal is being given a specific response today.

I have already said that we are going to exceed the State budget revenue target by at least 40 billion drams this year, which will make it possible to raise the salaries of servicemen, teachers and make serious capital investments. And I think that we should continue to act in this logic.

Of course, to begin with, 40 billion is a very good indicator, so to speak, out of the ordinary mode, but these 40 billion, of course, is not the figure that should please us. We must take serious steps in this direction. And in this regard, we should also discuss these issues.

Acknowledging that we have agreed to discuss all issues freely in the context of arguments, I would like to emphasize once again that I highly appreciate not only the role of the Armenian Apostolic Church, in general, but also the strengthening of Christian values in the Republic of Armenia.

And I dare to say that the non-violent velvet popular revolution in Armenia was largely based on Christian values. And as a citizen, as a politician, I consider that a turning point came in my life when I had the opportunity to read and re-read the New Testament.

I believe that the doctrine that underlies is actually revolutionary in all respects, and this is just the formula that can bring happiness to the Republic of Armenia, its citizens and humanity, as a whole.

I say this to emphasize my attitude towards the Church, my attitude toward Christianity, my attitude toward Christian values. And I am convinced that these Christian values can and should serve to strengthen the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian people.

Your Holiness, I would like to note once again that I am pleased with today’s meeting. I do not know if a similar format existed in the past, but I am convinced that this is an important milestone for us, because well-structured and constructive solutions must be given to the questions so that each question gets a clear answer, a clear explanation, without dark corners. Therefore, I wish the working group every success in its proceedings.

Of course, the working group’s findings will be discussed from time to time during our regular meetings, but I do hope that as a result, we will hear more about solutions than about the emergence of new issues. Thank you.”

The Catholicos of All Armenians stated, in turn: “We welcome and bring you our blessing. We express our joy at the convening of the first meeting of the working group to discuss relations between the Church and the State. This new format for streamlining the relations between the State and the Church is an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest and find ways of addressing them in order to fulfill the mission of our Church for the sake of our country and people.”

In his speech, His Holiness touched upon the State-Church relations, stressing the importance of cooperation dictated by our national interests and priorities, national identity and spirit. “The positive expectations of both the clergy and the faithful are associated with the activities of this working group. We are confident that the furtherance of State-Church partnerships may help us strengthen the national and spiritual life of our people, form a conscious and law-abiding citizen and strengthen our family traditions.

We pray the Lord to grant prosperity and well-being upon our Homeland under a peaceful sky. We bless all the efforts of our people and the authorities as may be exercised for the sake of our Homeland, for progress in public life and a brighter future,” the Catholicos of All Armenians said.

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