Interview with the Primate of the Armenian Church of Argentina

Interview with the Primate of the Armenian Church of Argentina

By Eugenia Akopian, 100 LIVES
During the “Holy Mass for the Faithful of the Armenian Rite” held in Rome on April 12 Pope Francis used the word “genocide” to refer to the massacres of Armenians that occurred in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. Many people from around the world traveled to Rome to take part in the ceremony. Among those present was Archbishop Kissag Mouradian, the Primate of the Apostolic Armenian Church of the Republic of Argentina and Chile. 
Speaking to 100 LIVES shortly after his return to Buenos Aires, the Archbishop commented on the Holy Mass: "It is of great satisfaction for the Armenian people, and particularly for those Armenians who were present in Rome, to hear the Holy Father, Head of the Roman Catholic Church, say that a state has to recognize its crime and accept that it was the first genocide of the 20th century." The Archbishop also believes that "the Pope is a true Christian, because as he himself said, ‘a Christian cannot be untruthful’ and he honored his words when addressing the Armenian Genocide." 
Kissag Mouradian said the Supreme Pontiff has always held the same views on the Genocide: “When he was a Cardinal he spoke many times in the Requiem Masses for the Genocide in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires. From the beginning he demanded the Turkish state to acknowledge its crime for the well being of both peoples and for peace. We have suffered the Genocide and its consequences and they suffer the consequences of history and the condemnation. The difference is that when he was a Cardinal here, he was just a Cardinal. Now he is Pope Francis, he has a different voice,” Mouradian said.    
Further to Pope Francis’s statements, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the words of the Supreme Pontiff, while other Turkish officials reflected negatively on the Pope’s homeland, the country of Argentina. Mouradian found their reaction unsurprising: "I think it's only natural. They will try to deny and to express the opposite to what we feel and do. I always say denying is also affirming…But the most important question is: where did these people live? They were born and were massacred in their own land. We are not moved by revenge, what we want is justice."       
Kissag Mouradian and Francis I have been long-time friends. Their friendship began around the time when Francis was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Auxiliary Bishop of Cardinal Antonio Quarracino. “We started working together in an ecumenical prayer service and we shared many experiences; this is how our friendship began,” Mouradian remembered with a smile. “Personally, I feel our friendship got stronger when he himself called me to join him in the prayer services for the victims of Cromañón [editor’s note: a total of 194 young people died in a fire during a rock concert in the club “República Cromañón”]. I remember I thought he had called other archbishops too, but he had only invited me. It was a very intense and tough moment." 
Kissag Mouradian and Francis I jointly carried out the consecration and blessing of Saint Thaddeus altar in the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy and of the altar in the Church of Saint Bartholomew because they were the apostles who traveled to Armenia.  
Their friendship also keeps some good stories: “When Bergoglio was elected Cardinal, the Armenian Archbishopric gave a dinner in his honor. In relation to this event, a legislator asked him: ‘but Monsignor, you never leave your house after 8 p.m., how are you going to go to the dinner?’ to which he answered ‘I cannot deny the Armenian Archbishopric anything’,” Mouradian said, smiling.  
For the 95th anniversary of the Genocide in 2010, a “khachkar” (a typical Armenian cross stone) was placed in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires in memory of the martyrs. “The khachkar was put there upon Francis’ express request,” Mouradian said.
The Primate of the Armenian Church visited the Pope in Rome on three occasions: first with the Saint Aegidius group, then with Vehapar Garegín II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and then last Sunday for the Holy Mass dedicated to the Genocide Centennial. “I hope next time we’ll meet in Armenia, so that we are there together,” the Archbishop said.  
On Tuesday, April 14, Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner received a delegation of the Armenian community in Argentina headed by Archbishop Mouradian and expressed her solidarity with the Armenian people for the Genocide centennial. In reference to this meeting, Mouradian said that the head of state gave them a warm welcome and “became emotional when we told her that a commemorative plaque with the name of former President Néstor Kirchner will be placed in Armenia, because he enacted National Law No. 26.199, which recognizes the Genocide and declares April 24 as the Day of Action for Tolerance and Respect among the Peoples." Archbishop Mouradian hopes that the Argenitian president will travel to Armenia for the centennial.