ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily news)–Confusion over the leadership of Turkey’s Armenian Patriarchate is continuing to create problems for the community as the church’s spiritual center has ignored a request by the acting patriarch to appoint a new archbishop.
Archbishop Atesyan, the acting patriarch, recently applied to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia to elevate Bishop Tatoul Anoushian to the position of archbishop but church authorities said the move was a contravention of canon law.
“The rules are clear and all Armenian Apostolic churches and clerics in the world know them,” Bishop Sebouh Chouldjian recently told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review on behalf of the Armenian Apostolic Church Diocese of Gougark and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. “As a cleric, [Atesyan] knows very well the rules of our holy house.”
According to Church rules, the patriarch himself must make a request for higher clerical positions in writing. Etchmiadzin has not responded to the request because it was not in accordance to Church regulations, according to Chouldjian.
Current Patriarch Mesrob II suffers from dementia and is unable to perform his duties.
The bishop said the Turkish Armenian Patriarchate abides by the same canon law, which states that the patriarch must directly apply to the Etchmiadzin office by writing a formal letter. After this, the letter is submitted to the Spiritual Committee and the decision is made there.
The Patriarchate in Turkey said it would not make any statement for the moment.
The core reason for the problem is the prevention of an election in the Patriarchate. After it became clear that Mesrob II’s illness would not allow him to fulfill his duties as patriarch, an initiating committee composed of the community’s lay leaders and representatives of the Patriarchate found themselves in disagreement.
The Patriarchate said that under Armenian Church rules, as long as Mesrob II remains alive, there can be no election for a new patriarch, adding that the holy house could only choose a co-patriarch.
However, the lay committee opted to vote for a new spiritual leader. When negotiations fell apart, the Turkish Interior Ministry surprisingly intervened, appointing the Spiritual Committee’s president, Archbishop Ateşyan, as acting patriarch.
“According to Armenian Apostolic Church rules, the post [of acting patriarch] does not exist,” Bishop Chouldjian told the Daily News. “Unfortunately, the Patriarchate did not manage the process well and now it has turned into a Gordian knot.”