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Pashinian, Entourage Shun Armenian Christmas Mass


Armenia -- Catholicos Garegin II (C) leads a Christmas Mass at Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral in Yerevan, January 6, 2021.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian declined to attend on Wednesday a Christmas mass celebrated by Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church increasingly at loggerheads with Armenia’s government.

Parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan and other key members of Pashinian’s political team were also conspicuously absent. Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian was the only senior state official present at the liturgy held at Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral in Yerevan.

Pashinian congratulated Armenians on Christmas, marked by their ancient church on January 6, with an excerpt from the Gospel posted on his Facebook page. His spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgian, said later in the morning that he did not go to the mass because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to the pandemic situation, the prime minister is self-isolated,” Gevorgian told the Armenpress news agency. She did not specify whether Pashinian has taken a coronavirus test.

Pashinian already went into self-isolation in June after announcing that he and members of his family have tested positive for COVID-19. He claimed to have recovered from the disease a week later.

Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian kisses a cross held by Catholicos Garegin II during an Easter Mass at Yerevan's St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, April 21, 2019.
Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian kisses a cross held by Catholicos Garegin II during an Easter Mass at Yerevan's St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, April 21, 2019.

A group of Armenian opposition supporters warned on Tuesday that they will try to bar Pashinian from entering the Yerevan cathedral if he decides to attend the Christmas mass.

Virtually all major opposition groups blame Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh and want him to resign and hand over power to an interim government that would hold fresh parliamentary elections within a year.

Garegin and other senior clergymen in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora have publicly backed the opposition demands rejected by Pashinian. Some Armenian Apostolic Church priests demonstratively attended recent anti-government rallies in Yerevan.

Another priest based in the southeastern town of Sisian publicly refused to shake Pashinian’s hand when the prime minister visited a local church last month. Garegin’s office pointedly declined to criticize the priest’s behavior condemned by Pashinian’s supporters.

Armenia -- Worshippers attend a Christmas Mass at Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral in Yerevan, January 6, 2021.
Armenia -- Worshippers attend a Christmas Mass at Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral in Yerevan, January 6, 2021.

Garegin mentioned the Karabakh war and its “disastrous consequences” in a homily read out during Wednesday’s church service attended by hundreds of believers. He lamented “destructive mistakes” which he said were made before the six-week hostilities.

“Necessary vigilance was not shown in the face of the threats of an unstable peace and war, the interests of the homeland and the people were subordinated to individual aspirations and goals. God-rejecting spirit and alien ideologies and habits permeated our society,” he said.

“Let us stand strong in the face of the lethal test for our nation and people with hope and faith, girded with the life-giving power of the Lord. Let us gain strength to rise from disasters, to dispel this heavy darkness that is forced upon us with heavenly support, and to illumine the new horizons of our lives,” added the Catholicos.

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