News > Holy Land Armenians > Interview with Father Issahag Minasyan in Jerusalem
It is sad that many Armenian communities living in the Middle East can't make pilgrimage to Jerusalem, says Father Minasyan.
You have been in Jerusalem for more than a decade now? What changes do you notice during this period?
It depends what kind of changes you are looking for. A decade ago I haven't had chance to know the city and the people so well. I guess some positive changes have taken place, but they are tiny and do not allow to evaluate correctly.
Can you tell us about your photography project? Are you getting any feedback? Is the project helping to encourage pilgrimage to the Armenian locations in the Holy Land, as you were hoping?
When I first started to spread out photographs from the Holy Land and cover ceremonies, I noticed increased interest among people who have been in Jerusalem, more or less linked to Jerusalem, have memories with this city or have read much about it. However, I don't get much feedback directly. My aim is to raise interest amongst Armenians – first when they see the photographs and then, at a later stage, when they see the city in reality, with their own eyes and are called mahdesi … I assume, therefore, that the interest is increasing… (check the website: www.fi-photos.com
Can you update us with the news related to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem? We seldom receive any information about the Patriarchate.
In the recent year the Communication Office of the Patriarchate did not function regularly, therefore there was lack of information. However, this gap would be soon compensated when the Patriarchate's official website will be updated. Moreover, I can inform the readers the good news about the huge renovation projects that the Patriarchate has undertaken recently, including many important buildings, such as the Grant Sacristan Office, Holy Archangels' historical episcopal house, and - this year - the main entrance of the Monastery. The renovation works are covered by my photographic lens too.
Are there disputes with the other two Churches that are sharing, according to the status quo agreement from the 19th century, the care of the holy sites in Jerusalem?
The St. James Brotherhood has its unique mission in the Holy Land as the guardian of the Holy Places. Therefore, it is not unusual that this special mission has faced misunderstandings, resulting in some disputes with the Catholic (Franciscan Brotherhood) and the Greek Orthodox (Holy Sepulcher Brotherhood) Churches. Solving these issues is the only way to achieve closeness between the churches. There are though some issues which date back to pre-Ottoman periods, such as the Holy Fire Ceremony. This is a unique miraculous ceremony, which is celebrated once a year during the Holy Week. With the Greek Church the dispute continues until today about who will lead the ceremony, etc. (It's also photo covered. See the website). Moreover, disputes that have relatively new nature are being solved by mutual understanding, such as with the Syrian and Coptic Churches.
Do tourists usually make a stop at the Armenian quarter or is their agenda so busy with many other sites to see?
The Armenian Quarter being one of the four quarters in the Old City, is always part of the tourist visit. St. James Cathedral for example is full of tourists and pilgrims during the vesper every single day. Every visitor is amazed by the Seminary's Choir. Moreover, the Armenian Museum is open every day. It is a very unique place to visit, even for casual passer-byes.
What is the present situation of the community?
It's a living community, where you have all the resources and means to flourish. However, it's not the case…
How is the Israeli-Arab conflict affecting the future of the community? Is there uncertainty about the future, having in mind that the Palestinians demand East Jerusalem to be their future capital? Is the Armenian Quarter considered part of the East Jerusalem?
I'm not sure about the anwer to these enquiries. It has political side…
Are there direct links with Armenia (educational, cultural, etc)? Are there direct airline flights with Yerevan?
For decades there have been tight links with Armenia and the Armenian Authorities. The majority of the Seminary students are from the motherland. Moreover, many professors, teachers, educators and even some individuals who serve in the Holy Places come from there. In recent years the pilgrimage from Armenia is much encouraged. Not to forget that we have now for many years Honorary Consul, residing in Jerusalem. There has been some attempts to connect Yerevan-Tel Aviv with direct flights, but they failed due to many objective factors.
How is the Armenian community in Jordan related to Jerusalem? Is there any administrative relationship? If yes, is it easy to carry on the required work in the present day tense relations with the Arab World?
The Armenian Church and the community in Amman is under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This situation is created when the Jordanians came out from Palestine. There are no great challenges today in relation with coordinting the work with the community there, due to the relatively peaceful relationship between the two countries, Israel and Jordan.
Where does the biggest percentage of the Armenian pilgrims to Jerusalem come from?
After the historical visit of the Catholicos of All Armenians to this land in 2005, accompanied with intellectuals, governmental officials and important persons, pilgrimage is being encouraged for Christmas and Easter. We have pilgrim groups coming from Bolis (Constantinople), United States, Canada, etc. It's strange that we do not have such visitors from Europe. However, it's sad that many Armenian communities living in the Middle East can't make their pilgrimage…
Having in mind the history and the traditions of the Armenian photography in the Holy Land, is there a possibility to form a new club with photography lovers?
Honestly, it's a good idea, which I think is possible to accomplish. There are quiet good number of professional Armenian photographers in the region, who could possibly contribute into that idea…
You can reach Father Issahag Minasyan at the following email.
Check the photography work of Father Issahag Minasyan
, where you can see the latest photos from the Armenian Community in the Holy Lands (Website designed by Designed by Artavazd Aslanyan
About the website:
Father Issahag Minasyan desribes the website: "This is the first website of that nature! All are welcome to enjoy the photographs of the vibrant spiritual life in full color. I intend to enable the viewer to witness the Armenian Church's mission, her people and community via my photos. Emphasis will be placed on photos of the Holy Places and Holy Sites that the Armenian Patriarchate has owned and maintained for centuries. There will also be ecumenical photos of the Armenian Church interacting with other religious leaders and communities".
to see photos related to the following events:
- Calling to the order of priesthood at St. James Cathedral.
- Ordination of priests by Abp. Nourhan, Transfiguration Feast, July 2007.
- Seminary Graduation Ceremony, June 2007.
- St. Tarkmanchats School Graduation Ceremony, June 2007.