ASIA/TURKEY - Internal divisions - the Armenian community behind the political interference in the election of the new Patriarch

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 oriental churches   religious minorities  


Istanbul (Agenzia Fides) – Deputy Garo Paylan, Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament, submitted a written interpellation to Turkish Interior minister, Süleyman Soylu asking for clarification regarding the political interference that is influencing the election of the future Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, based in Istanbul.
Interference which according to many observers is fueled by internal divisions between authoritative exponents of the same Patriarchate.
The procedures to elect the successor of Mesrob II Mutafyan - young and enterprising Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople who has been ill since 2008 - had been agreed between some senior representatives of the Patriarchate during a summit convened in Yerevan, at the patriarchal See of Echmiadzin (Armenia) by Patriarch Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians, on 23 and 24 February (see Fides 02/03/2017).
That meeting envisaged the election of a Locum Tenens and an Enterprising Committee, which would have had to oversee the election, within six months, of the new Patriarch, "according to the existing procedures".
On 15 August, following the agreed program, the Assembly of the clergy of the Patriarchate had elected Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, at the head of the Armenian Apostolic Diocese in Germany as Locum Tenens. But immediately after that election, the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople received a letter from Aziz Merjan, vice-governor of the governorate of Istanbul, who defined the electoral process already initiated "legally inadmissible".
The interpellation of Mp Paylan wonders what the reasons for this act of political interference are, considering the internal agreement reached within the Patriarchate on the election procedures of the new Patriarch. In his speech, Paylan also refers to the full compatibility between the procedure in progress and international legal provisions that regulate the internal life of minority religious communities in Turkey.
In reality, behind the letter of the deputy governor of Istanbul one also sees the continuing divisions within the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople: according to Armenian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides, Archbishop Aram Ateshyan - who since 2008, after the Patriarch's illness, had absolved the functions of general patriarchal vicar - considers the letter from the vice-governor a factor which must be taken into account, and calls into question the legitimacy of the electoral process set in motion after the summit in Yerevan. Ateshyan continues in fact to exercise the functions of general patriarchal Vicar, and does not seem willing to cede the functions to Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, elected Locum Tenens. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 21/03/2017)