ETCHMIADZIN—The Istanbul Patriarchate Vicar General Archbishop Aram Ateshian will step down after the Religious Assembly of the Patriarchate elects a Locum Tenens—the patriarchal alternate—on March 15.
This decision was reached on Thursday at a meeting, which was described as tense, between Ateshian, the head of the Patriarchate’s Religious Council Bishop Shahak Mashalian, the Primate of Gernany Archishop Karekin Bekdjian and His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, who last week summoned the lead clerics from Istanbul to Etchmiadzin after tension s over the Patriarchal Elections reached a crescendo over Mashalian’s abrupt resignation due to Ateshian’s alleged interference with the election process.
The Etchmiadzin press service reported Friday that with the mediation by the Catholicos the sides decided to hold election for Locum Tenens on March 15, following which a commission comprised of lay and cleric members of the Patriarchate will lead the Patriarchal Election process within a six-month time frame.
All high-level clerics—bishops and archbishops–will have equal rights to participate in the elections of the Locum Tenens.
The meeting at Etchmiadzin was prompted by Mashalian’s abrupt resignation on February 13. In announcing his decision to resign, Mashalian claimed that Ateshian was hampering the process of a Patriarchal Elections to fill the seat left vacant by former Patricarch Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan who stepped down due to illness.
Mashalian’s resignation accelerated the election process for a new patriarch. On February 16, 13 cleric and lay members of the patriarchate, among them Ateshian and Mashalian, held a secret meeting and agreed on a protocol based on which the patriarchal elections are to be held on May 28.
The Istanbul-based Jamanak newspaper reported that during the secret meeting, which convened prior to a scheduled board of trustees meeting, Ateshian and Mashalian “set their differences aside” and advanced a protocol, which called for the election of a Locum Tenens to the Vicar General on Friday and the appointing of an executive body to manage the election process.
The decisions of the secret meeting were declared null and void by Catholicos Karekin II, who immediately summoned the two clerics to Etchmiadian for a meeting, which took place Thursday and concluded Friday.