ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)–The Istanbul based Marmara Armenian Newspaper has called the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul to hold elections for a co-patriarch to secure the daily workings of the Church, left idle as a result of the deterioration of Patriarch Mesrob II’s health.
Patriarch Mesrob II has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, but the Spiritual Assembly has decided not to replace him.
“It was our deepest desire to see the Spiritual Assembly, who is the representative of our church system, work with community groups, cooperatively and in tandem to come to a mutual understanding for finding solutions to the serious situation that has come about following the Patriarch’s illness,” Marmara said in an editorial on Sunday.
The Spiritual Assembly, in a statement released on December 25, reaffirmed its recognition of Patriarch Mesrob II as the spiritual leader of the Armenian community in Turkey and said the Patriarch was capable of handling all his responsibilities despite his illness.
"Members of the Spiritual Assembly do not believe it is necessary to cloud the community’s agenda with an issue such as the election of the patriarch and advise members of the community to wait in faith and patience," it said.
“The members of the Spiritual Assembly have made a very serious mistake and should realize, after this reaction, that they have in fact made a mistake,” it said.
“The statement shattered our hopes and expectations,” the Marmara editorial said, noting that it still hopes the council will adopt, in the coming days, a more cooperative spirit for resolving the issue.
The only positive solution to this situation, however, is to elect a co-patriarch to occupy the Patriarchical throne, the editorial stated, explaining that the new position would not damage the authority and preeminence of the current Patriarch but rather attend to the unfulfilled responsibilities of the patriarch, actively carrying out the duties of the position.
According to the editorial, the Patriarch should be allowed to live out his days as the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey but “we need a Patriarch who will work; who is cognizant of his responsibilities; who will show interest in his work and provide direction; who will make accountable decisions on complex issues; and finally a Patriarch who will preside over our community activities with fatherly care.”
“The co-patriarch must be elected by our people according to the electoral canons of the patriarchate,” Marmara said.
The editorial went on to say that Marmara hoped the Council’s mistake came not as an intentional move, but rather as an attempt to show, with good intention, understanding toward the Patriarch’s tragic illness
But as concern grows over the possibility of having a patriarchate without a patriarch, senior members of the community say any commen’s about the health of the patriarch attract serious criticism from the conservative community and the patriarchate.
Speaking to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, the editor-in-chief of Armenian daily Jamanak Ara Kocunyan, similarly criticizing the decision of the Spiritual Assembly not to replace Patriarch Mesrob II, noting that discussion of the issue, however, is a very sensitive subject and can be perceived as disrespectful to the office of the patriarch. According to
Kocunyan, whose newspaper first broke the story about the deteriorating health of the patriarch, explained that the Armenian Patriarchy is not an office that can function without an acting patriarch.
Kocunyan said the Spiritual Assembly did not have the right to issue such a declaration and that the Armenian Church traditionally did not have such an executive mechanism. "The Spiritual Assembly does not elect the patriarch. It is trying to force a fait accompli on the community."
He said the Spiritual Assembly met mid last year due to increasing concern over the patriarch and asked for the community to wait until the New Year for a decision.
"I would not like to judge the policies of an ill patriarch, but he did not display the democratic sensitivities of his predecessor," Kocunyan said, noting that both his newspaper and the Agos weekly faced embargoes and other prohibitions from the patriarchate in the past.