"Is it true that you Armenians have two popes?"
"Well", I answered, "not exactly, we have two catholicoses."
"Call it what you want", he said, "but how can you have two heads of the same Church?"
"Well", I answered, "not exactly, one is the catholicos of all Armenians, and the 'other one'...the catholicos of...it's too complicated...historical reasons..."
"OK, but isn't there only one who really runs the show?"
"Well", I answered, "not exactly, but things are really changing...when the 'other one' came to Los Angeles last year, he said the two were finally reconciled and that the other was really the head of all Armenians".
"So what did he call himself?"
"I don't think he called himself anything!"
"So what does 'the other' one do?"
"He visits heads of state, the pope, goes to fund raising parties, takes a lot of smiling photos, gives great speeches and bestows medals upon the great souls who donate big bucks to the Church. That is how our merchant/benefactors earn their salvation in heaven."
"Then what does the first one do?"
"He does the same, but he does all of that first, then the other follows his tracks after a couple of months. It really works well for us, because if the first one is not noticed, usually the second one would be."
"But...but...you're still not telling me...why do you have two catholicoses?"
"Let's put it this way; The Armenian Church believes in free enterprise and competition. Therefore, this way monopoly of church services is prevented and the competition keeps down the fees of the wedding and funeral services. If you had one catholicos and he tripled the prices of the funerals, then where would you go when God called you? You would still have to pay it, wouldn't you?"
"Now, you're pulling my leg...you're kidding, aren't you?"
"Would I kid with you about such a thing? For an Armenian a catholicos is way, way above kidding, way above the law and way above everything else. He could get away with murder, and he would not need O.J. Simpson's Dream Team either. We don't ask them any questions. For us they are above questions, way, way above."
"How can that be? Even the US president, the most powerful person on earth, is not above the law."
"This is America, that is Armenia. Inch @sem, inch badmem?"
"I said one inch above the law, one inch below the law, what difference does it make?"
"These things are above my head, I tell you!"
"One inch above, one inch below, inch @sem, inch badmem?"
"Read this, guys, read it and cry! You ain't heard nothin' yet!"
"Don't interrupt us, Margos, this is a critical moment", says one.
"Not now, please, this game needs a lot of concentration!" says the other.
"You must read this, I am telling you, it's from my brother in Jerusalem, all the Armenians there are talking about it."
"OK, OK, go ahead read it to us. I can teach this guy another lesson anytime."
"My brother wrote: 'the Patriarch here is selling Armenian properties which had belonged to the Church for hundreds of years with prices way below market, and no one knows where the money is. Whenever we ask about them, they say these are only 99 year leases, so there is no money from a sale.' What the hell is going on?"
"Margos jan, that is why we have two catholicoses, with the greatest salaries and perks in the world. Why don't you take that letter to them and let them worry about it, and let us finish our game?"
"You think they don't know about it? Everyone in Jerusalem knows about it. When was the last time that you heard a bishop who stole from the Church was fired?"
"Well then, let the Armenians in Jerusalem worry about it."
"They did. But their numbers have shrunk in the last decade and they have little political clout. Beside, the Jews are "leasing" these properties, so you think they will have any fair hearing in the courts?"
"Well, Margos jan, at least we are getting something for our lands. The poor Arabs have deeds and houses and families living on the lands, and yet without warning the Israeli bulldozers show up one morning and pull everything down, and the whole family ends up living in tents on their ancestral lands, until they are evicted from there as well to make room for new Jewish settlements. Who said the bulldozer is not a weapon of terrorism?"
"That's a different story. No one is forcing us to give up our properties for pennies on the dollar."
"Pennies are better than nothing. Play backgammon, drink your oghi and eat your kebab. Is it up to you to fix the world?"
"Did you hear that a Jewish-American businessman offered millions of dollars for a small property owned by an Arab shopkeeper close to the Wailing Wall and he refused to sell?"
"That Arab may be a true patriot to you, but to me he is a fool! Millions of dollars? That's more than all the welfare checks I will be getting until the day I die, and I am only 42."
"What happened to you, man? You were a proud, caring Armenian when you came here. Now you are nothing more than a glorified beggar".
"What do you say? This is America, eat, drink, have good time. Have fun, hahaha, have lots of fun, aghper jan."
"Inch, @sem, inch badmem!"
Feedback/Comments: The email address of Shant Norashkharian is:
ARI (ARMENIAN REFORM INSURGENCE)