Istanbul Armenians Sue Ministry, Governor’s Office on Patriarch Issue

Due to illness, Arch. Mutafyan is incapacitated

ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily News)—Members of Turkey’s Armenian community have opened a third case against the Interior Ministry and the Istanbul Governor’s Office over the decision not to permit an election for a new patriarch following the incapacitation of the current spiritual head.

The third case was recently filed by an individual whose name was not announced publicly and follows two others followed by the Armenian Initiating Committee against the ministry for preventing patriarchal elections in July 2010. The following one, filed again by the committee, was filed in August 2010 regarding the ministry’s letter which officially made Archbishop Aram Ateşyan the “acting patriarch.”

Sabuh Arslangil, a member of the committee and its lawyer, spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review at a meeting held by the “We Want to Elect our Patriarch Initiative” Friday and criticized the ministry’s decision.

“[Acting patriarch] is a position that does not have any place in the Armenian church’s traditions. In effect, we have here a meaningless position,” Arslangil said.

Arslangil said waiting for current Patriarch Mesrop II, who is unable to fulfill his duties due to dementia, to die before holding an election – in line with ministry dictates – was unethical even though patriarchs are elected for life, according to canon law.

“The patriarchs are elected for life, which means indefinitely, not until death,” he said, adding that there were traditional precautions to ensure that the seat does not sit empty.

The lawyer, however, said they had been prevented from putting those measures into practice.

Because of Patriarch Mesrop II inability to discharge his duties, the patriarchate’s clerical committee Armenian community first applied to the Interior Ministry to elect a co-patriarch. Later, the lay committee applied to the same body to elect a new patriarch.

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