The governor of Istanbul has rejected the organization of an election of a new Armenian Orthodox Patriarch; this has disillusioned the Turkish Churches and the organizations that defend religious rights in the country.
This past February 8, according to Hürriyet, a Turkish daily news agency, the governor of the city of Istanbul has decided that the conditions for proceeding with the election of a new Patriarch for the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey, also known as the Armenian Orthodox Church, have not been met. In addition, Armenian Archbishop Karékine Békdjian has not been recognized as having the authority as locum tenens (a temporary substitute) to direct the election. Instead, the governor has decided prolong the mandate of the Vice-Patriarch Aram Ateşyan.
Ecclesiastical circumstances that led to the election
After the Armenian Orthodox Patriarch His Beatitude Mesrob Mutafyan became incapable of carrying out his role as Patriarch due to the condition of his health, which has been worsening continuously since 2008, His Excellency Archbishop Aram Ateşyan was elected Vice-Patriarch so he could carry out the necessary ecclesiastical and organizational work.
In order to proceed with the election of a new Patriarch of the Turkish Armenian Orthodox community, His Beatitude Mutafyan decided to resign. For this reason, last year the ecclesial assembly elected His Excellency Archbishop Karékine Békjian as locum tenens so he could direct the election. Based on this, Archbishop Békdjian sent a letter to the Turkish Interior Ministry in order to be able to proceed with the election. Here, it should be mentioned that in the Armenian Orthodox Church the synod of bishops does not elect the Patriarch alone; representatives of the people are also involved.
The reply of Turkish authorities
As a reply to Archbishop Békdjian, the vice-governor of Istanbul has decided that the conditions for the election of a new Patriarch have not been met, thus canceling the possibility of organizing an election. Consequently, the president of the council of clergy of the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, Sahak Maşalyan, has declared: “We have waited for a miracle for many years, hoping that Patriarch Mutafyan might recover. But no miracle has happened. And while the election of a new Patriarch was being organized, the governor has canceled the process, being of the opinion that the current situation should be maintained, given that Patriarch Mutafyan is still alive. We will evaluate the situation after communicating with the authorities.”
Lastly, we mention that the Armenian Apostolic Church, also known as the Armenian Orthodox Church, has as its leader the Cathólicos, and right now there are two Cathólicoi: the first located in Echmiadzin in Armenia and the second in Antelias in Lebanon. In addition, this ancient Church has two Patriarchs: the first in Istanbul and the second in Jerusalem.
Translated from Arabic by Aleteia’s Arabic edition