His Holiness Catholicos Aram I urged the church to approach a “pastoral approach” as it seeks to address social and ethical issues stemming from modern life.
He made his comments in a convention of the clergy of the three North American Prelacies in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, November 8. The meeting was attended by the respective Prelates—Archbishop Anoushavan (Eastern Prelacy), Archbishop Papken (Canadian Prelacy), and Bishop Torkom (Western Prelacy)—and discussed social and moral issues that impact the Armenian communities and parishes.
In his opening remarks, the Catholicos said that the goal of the meeting was not to solve the issues at hand, but to try to gain insights and then articulate collective approaches based on the Bible, the teachings of our church fathers and current realities, always seen from a pastoral perspective.
The first part of the conference consisted of two lectures given by professor and author Vigen Guroian and Judge David Erickson. Guroian focused his analysis on a series of issues from a social and ethical perspective, especially based on the social environment of the United States. For his part, Erickson discussed the same issues from a legal point of view, stressing the complications of social and ethical issues. The talks were followed by a Q&A session by the attending clergy.
His Holiness offered conclusions as the first panel came to a close. Referring to the presence of churches in the United States, he said that Christianity is facing serious challenges, among which are the globalization of faith, its Americanization, and the growing dominance of globalization culture. Their negative consequences have gradually come to rule the life, thinking, and activity of the churches. Social and ethical issues, the Catholicos said, should be considered in the light of this reality.
In the evening four lectures followed by a Q&A session were given by Fathers Keghart Kosbakian, Zareh Sarkissian, Vahan Kouyoumdjian, and Nareg Terterian, who spoke about abortion, artificial insemination, unnatural sexual tendencies, psychological problems, cremation, and euthanasia.
In closing remarks of the meeting, His Holiness focused on three points:
- The diversity of social and ethical issues, saying that they are more or less universal and manifest themselves in various ways in the life of different societies. The approach of our church should not be religious or dogmatic, but pastoral, and it is necessary to show understanding of special cases, always based on the teachings of the church. Technological progress should be considered in this context and its relevance for theological principles and spiritual values.
- His Holiness asked the three Prelates to summarize the topics discussed in the meeting and present the proposals arising from them for their examination by the Religious Council at the meeting of the Central Executive Council next month at the Holy See in Antelias, Lebanon. In this direction, the Catholicos also instructed the clergy to write explanatory articles and to convey the necessary information and guidelines to the faithful on social and ethical issues that are relevant in their lives.
- The Catholicos referred to several practical issues related to the mission of the clergy, emphasizing the imperative of revitalizing the parish communities within the framework of the Diaspora reorganization. On this occasion, he expressed his warm appreciation to the Prelates and all the clergy for the preparatory work they did and for their participation in the conference.