ISTANBUL, Turkey (Armenpress)—Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament Garo Paylan launched a written inquiry on March 20 to Turkish Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu regarding their interference of the election of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul.
Immediately after the Locum Tenens election, the patriarchate received a letter from the Turkish Deputy Governor Aziz Merjan from the administration of the legal department of the Istanbul governorate stamped. This letter was received with great surprise in the Armenian community and was labeled as interference to an already passed election.
During the election, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Germany Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian on March 15 was elected locum tenens of the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.
“What is the justification of such interference when there is an agreement within the Armenian community over the launch of the process on electing a Patriarch?” Paylan’s inquiry read.
“In accordance to the 1863 National Constitution and the Treaty of Lausanne, Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian was elected locum tenens by the clergy on March 15, 2017, with the purpose of beginning the process of electing a new Patriarch,” continued the letter.
The Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Mesrop Mutafyan has been unable to hold office for nine years due to health issues.
Paylan’s inquiry underlined that the governate’s letter to the patriarchate “was a huge surprise to the Armenian community, and they were not designed to interfere with the election.”
The governorate had said in the letter that it finds starting the process of patriarchal elections to be “legally impossible.”
Archbishop Aram Ateshian is going against the will of Catholicos of All Armenians, since it was the Catholicos’ will to hold locum tenens election, Ruben Melkonyan–expert on Turkish studies–told a press conference.
“One can only be surprised that Archbishop Aram Ateshian gives more priority to the suspicious letter of middle-class Turkish bureaucrat than to the call of the Catholicos of All Armenians,” Melkonyan said.
Asked what can be done in the current situation, Melkonyan said currently the only one who has a legal power of the Armenian community of Istanbul is newly-elect locum tenens Bekdjian.
“What is happening now means to suspend the process. They have asked for a meeting with the Istanbul Governor to discuss the issue. But this is already wrong since the Governor has no right to interfere in inner-church affairs based on the Turkish laws. This will negatively impact the process,” he said.
The expert believes that Bekdjian must take the entire leadership on him, must gather all forces across him and solve the problem. He said in fact now the elected locum tenens is unable to assume the post, whereas Ateshian, who lost the election, continues to de facto control the situation.
“He even announced that even though he wasn’t elected as locum tenens, but he will remain as vicar,” Melkonyan said, stating that the Catholicos of All Armenians must congratulate the newly elected locum tenens which will be an important support, a message addressed to the Armenian community.