Archbishop Bekjian

Turkish Authorities Interfering in Patriarchal Election Process 

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ISTANBUL (Agos) — The Clerical Assembly of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul elected Archbishop Karekin Bekjian, Primate of the German Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church as Locum Tenens —a patriarchal alternate on March 15.

The voting was seen as the first step of patriarchal elections.

Thirty members of the Clerical Assembly participated in the elections. Elected by clerics, the Locum Tenens is responsible for managing the process of electing the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.

Vicar General Aram Ateshyan, Bishop Sahak Mashalyan and Archbishop Karekin Bekjian were initially named as candidates. However, Mashalyan, in a statement before the election, declared that would withdraw and supported Bekjian. Still, Ateshyan is not stepping down as Vicar General.

The Clerical Assembly is expected to form a commission comprising clergymen and secular figures to organize the transfer of power from the General Vicar to the Locum Tenens.

The elections of the initiative group will be organized within 10 days after the election of the Locum Tenens. The group will, in turn, organize the elections of the Patriarch of Istanbul within a six-month period.

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However, immediate following the election, a notice was handed out by Archbishop Aram Ateshyan to the Clerical Assembly that stated that it was illegal to start the election process, according to Agos. The notice was from the Governor’s office to the press and was signed by Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan.

“Given the reports in the media, it is understood that the procedure of patriarchal election is intended to be started virtually by electing a deghabah on March 15.

“Considering the unfavorable developments that took place during the meeting on February 16 at the patriarchate, it is determined that starting the election process is legally impossible given the facts that this process might cause disturbance and divisions in the society, that there is already an incumbent vicar and that your society knows the basic proceedings and practices concerning the patriarchal election.” read the statement.

In a response, Arch. Bekjian stated that a group including Ateshyan and Mashalyan will go to the Istanbul Governor’s office to explain the situation.

“In this planned meeting, our party will explain the logic of election of the Locum Tenens,” read Bekjian’s statement. “Then an announcement will be made within the next couple of days.” Bekjian added that he will not be attending the meeting.

Archbishop Karekin Bekjian, who elected as the deghabah by the Clerical Assembly, made a statement about the notice from the governor’s office which states that “the election is legally impossible.”

Bekjian stated that a group including Ateshyan and Mashalyan will go to Istanbul governor’s office. Bekjian said, “I won’t be there. In this planned meeting, our party will explain the logic of election of deghabah. Then, an announcement will be made. This will happen within a couple of days. I will be here in the meantime.”