ISTANBUL—The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul issued an official statement slamming remarks made by the Patriarchate’s former Vicar General, Archbishop Aram Ateshian, who during a recent visit to Yerevan claimed that official Ankara did not recognize the elected Patriarchal deputy—locum tenens—Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian.
Ateshian, who has close ties to the Turkish government and has been going out of his way to ensure that he will become the next Istanbul Patriarch, has been engaged in a smear campaign to derail the upcoming elections of a new church leader in Istanbul.
In its statement, the Istanbul Patriarchate said that Ateshian’s remarks prove that he continues his efforts to distort the truth even outside of Turkey and warned the archbishop of further muddying the waters.
After a tumultuous start earlier this year, the Patriarchate’s religious council finally held elections last spring and chose Archbishop Bekdjian as the locum tenens. Dismayed from the results, Ateshian stormed out of the meeting, only to return minutes later to produce a letter by the Istanbul Governor’s Office, which deemed the entire Patriarchal election process as illegitimate, calling into question the validity of the locum tenens elections.
In response to Ateshian’s latest outbursts, the Patriarchate said that he is obliged to respect the result of the election and to avoid making internal church affairs into public distpute.
“According to the decision passed in the assembly, which he [Ateshian] personally attended, he is bound to step down as General Vicar. On the contrary, he refused to resign, a step which has put us in a precarious situation,” said the Patriarchate’s statement.
“His conduct forces the Church Assembly, which had installed him in this post, to dismiss him, something which is an extremely upsetting fact. In addition, the state hasn’t issued any statement signaling that it doesn’t recognize the elected locum tenens,” added the statements.
“Our desire is that the Archbishop stops looking for faults and avoids clashes,” said the statement.
Officials in Istanbul have continued their intervention into the Patriarchal elections by not responding to official requests from the church body and ignoring deadlines. Ateshian’s public statements and private machinations have also added disrupted the process.