Catholicos Gevorg V Surenyants – “I Will Not Leave Saint Etchmiadzin”

The military commandant of Yerevan Arshavir Shahatuni recalled:

“It was the middle of May 1918. We heard that the Turks broke the peace treaty and moved towards Sardarapat.

From a telephone conversation with commander Silikyan, I found out that he had sent an encrypted telegram to Aram in order to convince Catholicos Gevorg V Surenyants to leave Etchmiadzin and go to the summer residence.

Aram and I entered Surb Etchmiadzin. The Catholicos immediately accepted us.

‘What does your visit at this time mean? Is there any danger?’

Aram replied:

‘It’s alright, Your Holiness. We came to ask you to leave for Byurakan, if possible.’

He looked at us intently and said:

‘The Catholicos will go on vacation in June after the Lusavorich holiday. On that day, he should hold the Holy Liturgy. So the situation is difficult. No, good sirs. The Armenian Catholicos will not retreat.’

And, turning to Archbishop Tirayr, he ordered to ring all the church bells. In the chime of the bells, old Armenian chants and a mournful prayer for the liberation of Armenia became heard.

Many people gathered in the courtyard of the temple and inside. The Catholicos was praying, kneeled – Gevorg V was praying for a divine miracle.

He turned towards us and said:

‘Tell the army that I will not go anywhere. I will not leave Saint Etchmiadzin. If our soldiers cannot protect it and the Turks enter Holy Etchmiadzin, you will find my body in the sacred place of Holy Advent.’

Then, he knelt, kissed the spot of the Holy Advent, and with great sorrow in his voice said:

‘Lord, help my children defeat the enemy’ (Տեր, օգնիր իմ զավակներին, որ հաղթեն թշնամուն).

Archbishops Garegin and Zaven left the crowd and knelt before the Catholicos.

‘Your Holiness,” they said, ‘Let us go at the head of the army as Priest Ghevond did!’

It was so exciting and touching that Aram and I were hardly holding back tears.”

Aida Nersisyan

Pictured: Catholicos of All Armenians Gevorg V Sureniants blesses volunteers

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