ISTANBUL (Marmara)–Following the resignation of Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan from the position of locum tenens the religious assembly of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul–during an extraordinary meeting held at the Patriarchate Monday–re-elected him to that position with strengthened authority as acting patriarch.
According to Turkish law–a Locum Tenens stays in office only for six months.
This was only the 12th convention of the General Clerical Assembly of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul since 1923 and was called by the Religious Council in Istanbul for the purpose of resolving any ambiguities concerning the leadership of the Armenian Patriarchate until the election of the successor to Patriarch Karekin II.
The decision of the Religious Council electing Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan as Locum Tenens on March 16–had been challenged in a small section of the Turkish media–by one of the deputies to the Governor of Istanbul and by a small minority within the Armenian community in Istanbul.
The decision to call an extraordinary meeting of the General Clerical Assembly was in response to these and a notarized public statement dated July 29–warning Archbishop Mutafyan (42) that he should relinquish the office of Locum Tenens to Archbishop Shahan Svajian (72) as the candidate allegedly favored by the Governor’s Office.
In a statement following this challenge–Mutafyan announced that far from coveting the position of Locum Tenens or Armenian Patriarch–he was resigning his office as Locum Tenens into the hands of the General Clerical Assembly–the highest ecclesiastical authority in the local church.
In rejecting the notarized warning–the General Clerical Assembly ruled that it was not the tradition of the Armenian Church to appoint anyone to a clerical administrative office simply on the basis of age or seniority. Neither local nor universal church canons supported the challenge to the Religious Council’s decision. It was also decided that the Locum Tenens to be elected should be given the additional authority of Acting Patriarch.
Having each made statemen’s concerning the issues under discussion–both Archbishops withdrew from the Assembly and took no part in the casting of votes. In declaring the outcome of the secret ballot–the Chairman of the Assembly–Archpriest Bsag Tezenlian–announced that the results were: Archbishop Mutafyan 23 votes–Archbishop Svajian three votes–and one abstention. Following the acceptance of his election by the General Clerical Assembly–Archbishop Mutafyan was sworn into the office of Locum Tenens.