Christians in Turkey request prayer for the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey following the state’s interference in the election of a new patriarch.
As one of Turkey’s officially recognised churches, the Armenian Apostolic Church of Constantinople is subject to a degree of government control in the election of a new patriarch. The previous patriarch, Mesrob II, suffers ill-health and was formally retired on 26th October 2016. Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian was elected interim leader (Patriarch Locum Tenens) by an overwhelming majority on 15th March 2017, replacing Archbishop Aram Ateshyan (Patriarchal Vicar General) who had been appointed interim leader since 2010, due to the patriarch’s ill-health. As Patriarch Locum Tenens, Archbishop Bekdjian was to oversee the electoral process for the appointment of a new patriarch.
However, on 6 February the Istanbul Governorate declared in writing that the election could not take place as “Patriarch” Mesrob was still alive, and stated that the Governorate considered Ateshyan to still be the Patriarchal Vicar General.
On 7 February the Minister of the Interior, Süleyman Soylu, convened a meeting of key representatives of the Armenian community at the Çırağan Palace on the Bosphorus with the governor of Istanbul as well as the Chief of Police and several other senior officials, but did not invite church leaders. The Interior Minister confirmed that the Turkish State recognises Ateshyan as Patriarchal Vicar General. Attorney Sebouh Aslangil informed the Interior Minister that the Armenian Clerical Council had followed church rules in removing Ateshyan from his post as Patriarchal Vicar General. However, the minister insisted that Turkey was “acting under the law”, saying it was the state’s duty to recognise the role of the patriarchal vicar.
As Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper declared, “The government has openly intervened in the traditions of the church and told them that they cannot elect their own Patriarch.”
Archbishop Bekdjian felt obliged to leave his post and Archbishop Aram Ateshyan was reinstated as Patriarchal Vicar General on 16 February 2018.
The Armenian community in Turkey has been deeply affected by the recent disputes. Christians in Turkey request prayer that:
- God will bring healing and restoration to the Armenian Apostolic Church of Turkey
- The Turkish State will refrain from interfering with church elections and appointments
- Church leaders will be godly men who are able to serve the Armenian community in Turkey effectively, cooperating well with other church leaders and representing the church before the Turkish State
Open source: World Watch Monitor: Turkish state blocks election of a new Armenian patriarch