The Spiritual Leader of the Armenian Armed Forces: The Aspiration to Keep the Army Awake, in Prayer and in Blessing, Make the Armenian Clergyman Be in the Armed Forces
On the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian Army, "Armedia" IAA talked with the Spiritual Prelate of the Armenian Armed Forces, His Grace Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan.
- Since 1997 the clergy have been serving in military units of Armenia and Artsakh. How would you assess the work carried out by them? What gives their service to our army and soldiers?
- More than two decades ago Armenia was again facing a major problem of protecting its own rights. On January 28, 1992, we realized all Armenians’ wish, we had an army, and as the great Garegin Nzhdeh noticed, "If the nation becomes an army, it cannot be knelt." It is not a secret that we are army-nation, army from infancy to the elderly men, and this was imposed by our complicated long history, so we have to be vigilant, never diminishing our belts.
The clergymen of the Armenian Apostolic Church, bringing their service to army throughout the whole Artsakh war and throughout our history, in 1997, thanks to the efforts of Vazgen Sargsyan, the Commander-in-Chief of the warriors, and His Holiness Karekin I, the Catholicos of Armenian Apostolic Church, the Spiritual Service of the Armenian Armed Forces started to be formed. In times of statehood and army, the Armenian Church kept its constant spiritual care always standing by soldiers’ side in the battlefield. The most recent examples are Sardarapat and Artsakh wars. In Sardarapat alongside the military there was a separate unit consisting of clergymen, about whom we recently published a book with the help of Lusine Tumanyan, called "Soldier Clergy" .
The aspiration to keep the army awake, in prayer, and in the blessing of the Lord make the Armenian clergyman be in the armed forces for already twenty years, with the help of his daily service to the soldier and the officer. Besides the spiritual service, our clergymen carry out a very important public function, and today soldiers are hardly able to serve without their prayers and blessings, their words of Bible-based wisdom.
The clergyman considers the territory of his activity and preaching not only the military unit, but also the hospital, and the frontline. The result is visible and more than expected, and its testimony is on the soldier's lips. During the four-day war in April, many of our courageous boys said that they were ready to give life not only for "homeland" but also for "faith." This kind of slogans and beliefs testify the full presence of the Church in the life of the army. And this is mutual. The degree that clergy is trying to get involved in army life, he feels greatly flattered when he sees his soldiers and their family members in the church during liturgy and other sacred ceremonies.
- Having been involved in the Armed Forces for more than 20 years and recognizing the complex structure of the army better than many others, what kind of tendencies do the spiritual servants notice?
- First of all, I would like to note that our armed forces construction is much more clear and transparent than other armies and civilian structures, and the complexity lies only from the point of view of the problems facing. Everyone working in the army knows where the enemy is, where to wait for the blow, and the agenda is clearly organized by the daily life of the serviceman. However, in this short period of time, thanks to Mr. Vigen Sargsyan, as the Minister of Defense, many goals and programs have been accomplished making the Armenian army more invulnerable. The army is becoming increasingly popular, and the role of a dedicated officer and soldier is very important here.
- What steps are planned to be carried out in order to increase the effectiveness of the activities of spiritual servants?
- Under the paternal care of the Catholicos of All Armenians, from the very first day of his reign, Armed Forces Spiritual Service has passed a difficult yet experienced way. Taking the Army under the spiritual care, the vision of His Holiness was to emphasize the spiritual-moral and national mentality of the soldier. For this very goal, spiritual literature with the blessings of the Supreme Patriarch was distributed to the soldiers, the preparation of radio programs on relevant topics was made, church-festive events and seminars organized, social work and assistance to the killed and wounded servicemen and their families carried out and so on and so forth.
However, there are still so many things to do and we hope to accomplish an annual year for the benefit of our army, state and the Church. I would like to mention that we regularly organize meetings and discussions on a variety of topics and invite professionals both from our country and from abroad with their experience and knowledge, so that we can give guidance to our clergymen. I would like to also note that the important guests of our events and discussions are soldiers, who also contribute to the sacred work of strengthening the army.
- Your Holiness, what is your wish on the day of the formation of Armenian Army?
- I think that the first wish from the heart of every Armenian is peace. Our daily prayer is with every Armenian mother and the good health of her son.
One of the greatest men said that we should not ask the Lord to live easy, but we must pray that the Lord to make us stronger. I congratulate all of us on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of our glorious army and wish that, according to our Lord's word, as a nation-army for unity and integrity we should always be able to resist the sudden encroachment of the enemy by our adequate acts and steps, embodied in body and spiritual armor and strengthened prayer, the most influential and ever-lasting way for an individual Christian and for our entire nation and army. And let Almighty God himself strengthen our earthly armies, every soldier and the officer of the Armenian army and all of us, our people, our homeland and statehood! Happy birthday and Congratulations, Your Holiness Armenian Army!
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