Meeting with the Catholicos

Rt. Rev. Dr Bishop Mikael Mogren from the Church of Sweden meeting with H.H. Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.


So many different things were touching and deeply moving,” began Mogren. 

But its the children who have stayed uppermost in his mind. The kids, the refugee kids who could have had totally different lives—but the border was blocked,” he said. In just hours, everything was lost for them.”

And, as he saw the lives of children disrupted, he also saw the desecration of historic Christian landmarks that go back to the origins of Christianity. 

All of the marks of our history and our church—monasteries, cemeteries, damaged by bulldozers,” he said. That gives me nightmares, actually.”

He wonders why the world, in many ways, seems to have forgotten this small corner of Armenia, where people are trying mightily not only to survive day-to-day but also to salvage a history that holds some of the deepest roots of Christianity itself.

Think about losing your history and your family, your own personal roots—and yet being silenced in the world,” said Mogren. It destroys their world view—and our world view.”

Particularly in western countries, the media has saturated its audiences with images and news of other conflicts in the world—but not what’s transpiring in Armenia. 

Why is it outside the field of interest?” wondered Mogren, who also observed that, every day, people are caring for their neighbors in Armenia in ways that are nothing short of miraculous.

I saw fantastic things happening in the parishes, how the congregations are taking care of all the refugees who are coming,” he said. My interpretation is that its part of a very solid state-church system.”

While churches have the responsibly for a lot of society—and many of the refugees—there is also a natural cooperation from local municipalities. Healing is happening. 

I visited a Sunday School, and it was so impressive how a Sunday School can provide methods for healing,” said Mogren. Even those these kids had dark minds after a catastrophe, they can reach a creative normalcy.”

Nongovernmental organization such as the Red Cross were also shouldering a major portion of the response to refugees, the desecration of cultural heritage, and political and war prisoners taken by Azerbaijan. 

Bishop planting a tree

World outlook, local ties

Mogren took with him to Armenia strong ties from Sweden—ties hes had since he was a child. 

When I was a young man, I realized our churches are very similar,” he said. We have a similar tradition. Our churches have a history of lay people in leading positions and in governing boards. Lay people play a strong role even in the traditional liturgy of our churches.” 

He added: “We are national churches contributing to our countries with cohesion and worship.” 

Armenians also have a mixture of different cultures in their heritage. I have that in my heart, too,” said Mogren. And we have a long history of collaboration and influences.”

In 1901, the Missionary Society of Swedish women sent Alma Johansson to Mush (Western Armenia), where she stayed until December 1915. There she worked for the German Hilfsbund-Orphanage for Armenian children. At the outbreak of World War I, the atrocities against the empire's Christian minorities escalated and she became an eyewitness to these crimes against humanity. She wrote about her experiences in the book "A People in Exile: One Year in the Life of the Armenians.”

She saw with her eyes the genocide—and she protested,” said Mogren. She delivered worldwide news.”

During his trip to Armenia, Mogren left a bouquet of flowers at a monument to Johansson. 

And I planted a tree,” added Mogren, who regarded the act of planting as both an honor and a duty. They have a little forest of trees that represents the victims of genocide.” 

Spreading the word

Now back in Sweden, Mogren is still spreading the word about the plight of refugees, the hope churches provide, and the precious history of Christianity in Armenia. 

I did my journey with a journalist from Sweden,” explained Mogren. Hes a man whose stories were aligned with my heart, so called him even though we had never met, to say will you join?’ And he joined me.”

Now, the journalist is producing a lot of media, Mogren said with appreciation. At the same time, I have activated my contacts in the Swedish government, and Ive spontaneously, from my own side, been making reports,” he said. I have a responsibility to spread the word.”

Pray for open eyes

Mogren asked for the World Council of Churches global fellowship to pray for open eyes among not only decision-makers but among everyone in the world who wants a wider perspective of Armenia.

They are our root system for the whole Christian culture,” he said. Without these roots—without the cities and villages and monuments from the early Christian days—our Christianity would be different.”

He urged people to care about the state of original Christianity. We are coming from rich and dominating countries in the west,” he said. Sometimes we in the west have the blindness of the privileged.”

As Mogren tries to enhance the world view of others, his heart stays grounded in his local setting. 

He reflected on the legacy of Nathan Söderblom, the first clergyman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Söderblom was the Church of Sweden Archbishop of Uppsala from 1914 to 1931.

He gives me a lot of inspiration because his heart was in the local yet he could combine that with a wide perspective,” explained Mogren. His ecumenism is very inclusive.” 

As Mogren meets immigrants who come to Sweden from the east, he regards them with gratitude. 

These groups are an intense part of history in Sweden,” he said. They are my friends and I share with them, and I get to understand their situations. My native place here in Sweden has a root system because of them—700 or 800 years has been filled out by immigrants coming from very old churches.”

Church of Sweden

Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin)