By Edmond Y. Azadian
Byzantine laws in Turkey have contributed to the delays and complications in the election of a new patriarch in Istanbul. For nine years, the authorities have given the runaround to the lay and spiritual leadership of the community and at every stage have further complicated the process.
Archbishop Aram Ateshyan has time and again proven his loyalty to Turkey’s rulers to the detriment of his spiritual obligations to his flock. That is why the authorities rewarded him by extending artificially his rule at the Patriarchate, in the meantime using him as a political tool. He has been used on many occasions as the voice of the Armenian community in support of the government’s anti-Armenian stance. His rush to apologize for the German parliament’s resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide discredited him as a religious leader of the community, but endeared him to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s circle.
The tenuous situation in the community, however, could not last forever, as Archbishop Ateshyan abused his position and resorted to various ruses to emerge as the sole candidate for the office of Patriarch which had been vacant for the last nine years, since the incapacitation of Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan.
The situation came to a boil when an open row developed between Ateshyan and Bishop Sahak Mashalyan, president of the Clergy Council and a potential candidate in the election. That clash took place on February 16 and it shook the entire community.
After long deliberation amongst the community leaderships, it was decided to send both candidates to Holy Echmiadzin and defuse the situation through the mediation of Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II. The two men were later joined by Archbishop Karekin Bekjian, Primate of Germany, and Archbishop Sebouh Chouljian, Primate of Gougark in Armenia, who also submitted their names for the position.