A high-ranking cleric of the Armenian Apostolic Church on Wednesday defended his ownership of a handgun and luxury car which was revealed by the Armenian press recently.
Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan, head of the church’s largest diocese encompassing Yerevan and the southern Ararat province, shrugged off the resulting outcry in some media and online social networks. “I don’t take that seriously,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The Yerevan newspaper “168 Zham” reported last month that Kchoyan has been seen riding in a Bentley car. It quoted him as saying that he received it recently as a gift from one of his godsons.
The celibate priest refused to go into details, reportedly telling the paper not to meddle in his “private life.”
It is still not clear how old his luxury car is. Brand new Bentleys currently cost between $180,000 and $280,000.
Later in March, another newspaper, “Hetq,” revealed that Kchoyan received in 2007 a pistol from then Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. The paper said his spokeswoman initially denied the information but then confirmed it after being shown documentary evidence of the gift. She was quoted as saying that Kchoyan does not carry the weapon and keeps it in his office safe.
“In all countries, weapons are presented to all those who are appreciated,” Kchoyan told RFE/RL. “A weapon is [given as] an appreciation, not for some other purpose.”
The archbishop also had no qualms about using a very expensive car in a country where the official poverty rate exceeds 34 percent. “Should I have renounced the gift?” he said.
Kchoyan has for years faced criticism from local media for his behavior and lifestyle which they consider too earthly.
He has also sparked controversy by participating and even speaking at political gatherings organized by Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia. Kchoyan personally blessed the current Armenian president at a February 2008 campaign rally held in Yerevan in the run-up to a dispute presidential election.
The office of Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Church, has not commented on the latest controversy surrounding the archbishop.