ISTANBUL (Marmara)–The 83rd Patriarch of Istanbul–Patriarch Karekin Kazandjian was officially laid to rest Sunday at Shishli Cemetery following a funeral mass at Koumkapou Cathedral in Istanbul. Numerous high-ranking members of the Armenian clergy were in attendance at the mass–while coverage of the ceremony was broadcast over television airwaves and in newspapers all over the country.
Security for the event was tight and in place hours before the funeral mass took place Sunday. Traffic was also diverted away from the streets and the cathedral to accommodate arrival of dignitaries and clergy.
United States President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeline Albright sent condolences via telegram. The US Ambassador and Consul General to Turkey were both in attendance.
Officials of the Armenian church present included representative of His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia–Archbishop Vartan Demirjian. Among other official guests were a representative of Turkish President Suleyman Demirel–Patriarch Bartholomew Hreits Rabonapet of the Greek Orthodox Church–representatives of the Vatican–and from the Armenian Catholic Church.
The church service was conducted by Primate of Egypt–Archbishop Zareh Chinchinian. After the service–Prelate Mikael Ajepahian read the Patriarch’s biography–saying the Armenian community had just lost "a hard-working and devoted brother–and a defender of the church–the Armenian people and the Armenian nation." After the reading of the biography–Locum Tenens Mesrob Moutafian spoke–first in Armenian–then in Turkish and English.
Moutafian noted that Sunday’s burial was the second in the past eight years that a burial of a high clergyman took place on a Sunday. The last was on March 18–1990–the burial of Shnork Patriarch. The Hovaguimian Chair was in mourning. There was confusion regarding the successor to the Chair of Istanbul. "We were blessed with Patriarch Karekin who had accolades to match those of Catholicos Karekin I and Karekin Trabizondsi. First by the will of God–and then the people–Patriarch Karekin came to us to join the ran’s of the 82 patriarchs who preceded him. With his tolerant personality–he was able to garner the admiration of the public. Our organizations remained fruitful–our houses of prayer bright. Patriarch Karekin discovered new benefactors–who continue to support us today. He always prayed for his parish to remain united with a single mission," said Moutafian.
The Locum Tenens then reiterated his speech in Turkish–thanking President Suleyman Demirel and other official guests.
In English–Moutafian thanked Patriarch Bartholomew of the Greek Orthodox Church and all Greek Orthodox Church representatives; Pope John Paul II; Acting President of Armenia Robert Kocharian; and President of the US–Bill Clinton–who had sympathized with the loss of the Istanbul Armenian community.
Patriarch Karekin’s eulogy was then delivered by Archbishop Chinchinian–who recalled that the Patriarch and him were classmates at the Djarankavoratz School in Jerusalem. He said that the Patriarch’s positive attitude would always be remembered.
At the cemetery–a eulogy was delivered by Archbishop Vartan Demirdjian–representative of the Holy See of Cilicia. The Archbishop acknowledged that Patriarch Karekin had come forth in an atmosphere blessed by Tourians–Oshagans–and Catholici Zareh–and he was close with all parishioners–without exception. "He had a kind heart–and he was an intellectual. And–his spirit will always remain alive," said Archbsihop Demirjian.
As the public bid its final farewell to the Patriarch–religious figures gathered at the Patriarchate where a memorial luncheon was served.
It should be noted that on Saturday evening–memorial services–led by Archbishop Aghan Baliozian–Prelate of the Australia and New Zealand–and attended by all visiting and local religious figures–were held at the Komkapou Church.