Parishioner Arrested at Sunday Mass After Protesting Ateshian
ISTANBUL—The latest in the saga of the election of a new leader for the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate came Friday when the Patriarchate’s religious council decided to go along with the ruling of the Istanbul Governor and reinstate Archbishop Aram Ateshian as the Vicar-General.
The move followed a decision by Turkey’s Interior Ministry delineating the process by which a Patriarch can be elected, as well as a letter by the Istanbul Governor’s office, which rejected the election of Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian as Locum Tenens of the Patriarchate and said there was no need for an election of a new patriarch since Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, the current Patriarch, is still alive, despite being incapacitated for almost 10 years due to dementia.
The Patriarchal Religious Council, presided over by its chairman, Bishop Sahak Mashalian, met Friday and reinstated Ateshian to his post, which he was forced to vacate after last spring’s election of the Locum Tenens. Archbishop Bekdjian did not attend the meeting
The Religious Council decided, according to reports published in Zhamank Daily, the Patriarchate must adhere to the decisions made by the Interior Ministry and return to the status before the October 26, 2016 meeting, which decided on the process to elect a new Patriarch.
The intervention by the state has angered many in the Istanbul Armenian community who believe that their abilities to elect a leader of the church has been severely curtailed.
One such community member is Besse Kabak who chose to voice her protest against the situation and Ateshian during Sunday Mass at a church in Istanbul being presided over by Ateshian.
Kabak, an Armenian scholar, stood up and began reciting “Der Voghormya—Lord Have Mercy” with a bible in her hand. This act was in direct protest to Ateshian’s non-constructive role in the patriarchal election process.
Local police took Kabak into custody, dragging her from the church. She was released an hour later after the conclusion of Sunday Mass.