ISTANBUL (Daily Sabah) — A Turkish court’s decision to appoint the mother of ailing Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II Mutayan as his custodian, has revived the long-standing debate over his potential successor. While the Patriarchate in Turkey, headed by acting-Patriarch Aram Atesyan, insists on keeping Mutafyan as its leader, some prominent members of the Armenian community have repeatedly called for the election of a new patriarch.
Incumbent Patriarch Mesrob II has been in a vegetative state since 2008, after being diagnosed with dementia. Several plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit for appointment of a custodian for the patriarch in his absence, while Tatyos Bebek, a prominent figure in the Armenian community who was one of the co-plaintiffs, has sought a court order to that extent so that a new patriarch can be elected when the court officially recognizes the patriarch cannot fulfill his duties anymore. An Istanbul court on March 9 appointed the patriarch’s 78-year-old mother, Mari Mutafyan, as his custodian. She will be eligible for representation of her son by the court order.
Atesyan, who had reportedly pledged that an election would be held in 2014 though the council of bishops failed to reach a consensus on an election, was seeking a rejection of the lawsuit by the court. He still has the option of appeal to the court’s ruling.
The patriarch acts both as a religious leader and a leader of Turkey’s ethnic Armenian community concentrated in Istanbul, as the patriarchate also runs several non-profit organizations.
Bedros Sirinoglu, president of the Armenian community’s Yedikule Surp Pirgiç Hospital Foundation and a proponent of the election of a new patriarch, told Agos daily that the appointment of a custodian is a legal testament to the end of Patriarch Mesrob II’s rule.
Turkish law bans the election of a new patriarch while his predecessor is alive. A patriarchal election is required to be held by the synod, and the synod has to apply to the Interior Ministry after approving the election.