As a first step toward the election of an Istanbul Patriarch, the patriarchate’s religious council chose Bishop Sahak Mashalian, its chair, to assume the post of Locum Tenens of the Patriarchate. He will be responsible to head the election process.
According to the Istanbul-based Agos newspaper, the Locum Tenens election took place on July 4 when two candidates were nominated for the post. Mashalian beat out Archbishop Aram Ateshian, the controversial Vicar General by two votes—13 to 11.
The election of a new Istanbul Patriarch has been a forefront issue on the agenda, the process for which has been marred by government intervention and in-fighting that has been mainly prompted by Ateshian, who enjoys close ties with Ankara.
Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), welcomed Mashalian’s elections, but decried the Turkish authorities’ continued intervention in the process, the most recent being the forcible postponement of the election of a locum tenens, which was originally scheduled to take place on June 27.
“I congratulate the new locum tenens on his election. However, the process of the elections was wrong. Clerics born in Turkey or those clerics whose fathers were Turkish citizens were eligible to take part in the locum tenens elections,” Paylan told the ermenihar.am news site.
He also added that he Turkish Interior Ministry has yet to respond to his complaint questioning the postponement of the locum tenens election.
The election of an Istanbul Patriarch was in the works long before the death of the sitting patriarch Archbishop Mesrob Mutafain, who died in March after almost a decade of incapacitation due to dementia-related complications. However, his passing, cemented the prospects of an actual vote.
In another election held on July 5, Ateshian was elected to chair the Patriarchate’s religious council, replacing Mashalian after his election as locum tenens.