ISTANBUL (Marmara)–Turkish government intervention in the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul escalated as Istanbul governor Erol Caker received Wednesday Archbishop Shahan Sevadjian as the Locum Tenens of the Armenian Patriarchate. During elections held last month–Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan was elected Patriarchate.
The continuing interference by the Turkish government and media has created controversy in the Patriarch election process–which was scheduled for early summer. Sources indicated the election is not now scheduled for October.
Sevadjian was accompanied by Beyoghlu town councilmember Apik Hairabedian–who staunchly supported Sevadjian’s bid for the position of Locum Tenens.
Turkish authorities seem to favor Sevadjian over Mutafyan as Locum Tenens and the new Patriarch–and through intervention are widening an otherwise stifled schism within the Patriarchate leadership and the Turkish-Armenian community.
Sevadjian accepted the last-minute invitation from Caker–taking the opportunity to congratulate him on his election as governor.
During discussion about the upcoming Patriarchal elections–Caker stated that the Istanbul governorship recognized Sevadjian as the Locum Tenens and not the legally elected Mutafyan.
In response–Sevadjian told Caker that the elections would take place with "God’s will."
Caker informed Sevadjian that he had received the permit and necessary documentation from the prime minister’s office for the elections–adding–however–that certain issues such as a date for the elections–were impeding the governor’s office from final verification of the documen’s.
Sevadjian told Caker that October would be an ideal time for the elections–a suggestion which–according to Caker–would be taken into consideration.
The Turkish press focused attention on the Caker-Sevadjian meeting–commenting on Turkish authorities’ opposition to Mutafyan’s candidacy and elections.
The daily Hurriyet erroneously reported that Mutafyan was not elected Locum Tenens for the very reason that Turkish authorities opposed his candidacy. Mutafyan was elected last month during a round of elections.
Hurriyet also reported that Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian of the German Diocese had emerged as a possible third candidate for the Patriarchal position.