Armenian political, public and analytical circles believe that the landmark visit of two Armenian Church leaders to Nagorno-Karabakh at a crucial time for the struggling republic will have a lasting impact.
The joint visit of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, to Nagorno-Karabakh was announced at a time when Armenians there were resisting an aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan and was welcomed as a step that would provide spiritual support for the struggling people and boost the sense of unity among different parts of the nation, including its far-flung Diaspora.
The two catholicoi arrived in Stepanakert on April 13 and met with the Karabakh leadership, including President Bako Sahakyan. The patriarchs visited the Stepanakert central military hospital where some of the soldiers wounded in April 2-5 clashes were being treated and then went to the St. Hovhannes Mkrtich Church of Gandzasar where they prayed for peace in Artsakh and gave blessings to Armenian soldiers.
“Our struggle is just. Our people take up arms for their Homeland, for their free and peaceful lives,” said Karekin II. “Artsakh and with it the whole Armenian nation must continue to defend their right to live free until a triumphant outcome, until the international recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
Aram I, who was paying his first visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, also directed his appeal to Armenians to combine their forces in support of Artsakh’s peaceful life.
“We are a peaceful nation and have never committed aggressions, but we’ve never allowed our enemies to trample on our fair rights. The enemy must know that the people of Artsakh are not on their own, but enjoy the support of the entire Armenian people.”
Hayk Khanumyan, the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh’s opposition National Rebirth faction in parliament, said the catholicoi’s visit will be useful not only for Artsakh, but also for all-Armenian unity.
“Messages will be sent to our compatriots living in different parts of the world to turn their attention to Artsakh and make Artsakh the main object of their care, to work for the recognition of Artsakh and implementation of different programs in Artsakh,” the politician told ArmeniaNow.
Political analyst Levon Shirinyan thinks that the visit of the church leaders is important also from the human perspective.
“Now imagine the emotions of the soldiers whom the catholicoi met. It’s a huge thing for them,” he said.