Sultan Erdogan’s ambitions to govern an empire extend from his contempt for the NATO alliance to negotiating a missile deal with Russia to micromanage the internal religious affairs of the miniscule Armenian community.
His April 24 message that no Armenian should feel like a second-class citizen in Turkey is contradicted by his actions in intruding in a cruel manner in the patriarchal elections in Istanbul. To snub the Armenian community, he has delegated the patriarchal issues to the deputy governor of Istanbul — not even the governor.
Last March, the Religious Council held a meeting and elected Archbishop Karekin Bekjian as locum tenens to supervise the election process of the patriarch. In his turn, Archbishop Bekjian appointed Bishop Sahak Mashalyan as his deputy. The election would technically terminate Archbishop Aram Ateshyan’s authority as vicar general, a position which he had wrested from the same council by coercion.
The council members are beholden to Archbishop Aram and the community believed that the council would fail to demonstrate its independence and vote for Archbishop Ateshyan. But the opposite happened with the election of Archbishop Bekjian, demonstrating the lack of confidence in Archbishop Ateshyan.
A subsequent visit to the office of the deputy governor of Istanbul turned everything upside down. In no uncertain terms, the deputy governor told the visiting delegation, which included Ateshyan and Mashalyan, to hell with your election and regulations, we still recognize Ateshyan as the representative of the patriarchate.
The reason given for this intrusion was that no permission was sought to hold the election. Neither the Treaty of Lausanne nor any code of conduct in a civilized country allow such arbitrary and contemptuous behavior. Therefore, Ateshyan returned from that visit victorious to his throne. At the same time, the Catholicos of All Armenians in Echmiadzin was caught in an inadvertent faux pas by sending a congratulatory message to Archbishop Bekjian.