ISTANBUL (Agos)—Nor Zartonk issued a statement on February 18 regarding the crisis concerning the patriarchal election that started with the resignation of Sahak Mashalian. Stating that the protocol signed in the secret meeting was in violation of the Armenian Church’s standard operating procedures, Nor Zartonk urged Ateshian to resign and demanded institutions managed by “wealthy men” become transparent and accountable.
Nor Zartonk (New Renaissance) is a platform founded by Armenians of Turkey and works for the intellectual development of the peoples of Turkey starting from Armenians of Turkey, contributing to the internalization of universal and libertarian values. In their statement, Nor Zartonk noted that the seat of the patriarchate has been usurped for 9 years and “9 years of silence of foundation chairs and clerics is thought provoking.”
The statement also addressed the proper procedures of operating elections and demanded a transparent administration.
Discussing the resignation of Mashalian, Nor Zartonk defined the resignation as “correct but late.”
“Not only Mashalian, but all clerics in the Clerical Assembly should explain why they stayed silent for such a long time and why they let the seat of the patriarch become discredited,” read part of the statement.
Nor Zartonk also stated that the protocol signed during the secret meeting was an “alliance of evil wanting to prevent possible debates and questioning that will emerge,” and that the issue was not about the election, but about the candidates’ mentality and the system itself.
A number of Armenian community representatives in Turkey have sent a letter to the Catholicos of all Armenians ahead of the meeting between General Vicar of Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul Aram Ateshian and the Chairman of the Clerical Assembly of Istanbul Sahak Mashalian scheduled at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on Thursday to be chaired by Karekin II.
Below reads the full text of their statement.
“For 8 years the Patriarchal seat of Istanbul has been vacant. A number of Church and community representatives delayed the elections for their personal interests. We submit this phenomenon to your attention with a letter containing over 5000 signatures. It’s a pity we have received no response from the Mother See so far.
Several negative incidents occurred during the last 8 years. Archbishop Aram Ateshian appointed by the state in contradiction with our traditions acts with Patriarchal powers irrespective of the people’s will and in an unreasonable manner. Aram Ateshian, deprived of the quality of a leader, and with negligence towards the victims of the Genocide of 1915, has left deep wounds in the spirits of those feeling that grief in their hearts. Our sole consolation is to see how April 24 commemoration events take place in various cities of Turkey even with our defeated posture. The Patriarchy, which is a place intended for solving problems, has itself become problematic. The clerics are unable to resist pressures and become part of the sin. As a result, the link between the Armenian community and its Church has dimmed. The religious community deprived of its leader gradually extinguishes. Finally, the people have no more patience, which has induced people to conduct protests in front of the Patriarchy.
Your Holiness, after numerous challenges we are on the threshold of Patriarchal elections. We know that there are some people who even in this stage will attempt to foil the election, but we are confident. We well understand that an elected Patriarch is not only the leader of the Church, but also the representative of the Armenian of Turkey in front of the State. We hail with satisfaction your intervention (though with some delay) in the disagreement within our Church.
We, Armenians in Turkey, have taken a decision to solve our problems on our own. For the sake of fair and transparent Patriarchal elections we kindly ask you to demand Aram Ateshian’s resignation from the post of the Vicar. We once again underline that we do not elect a religious person to lead the Church community, but someone who will represent the entire Armenian community in front of the state and the law. You have encouraged us by your problem solving efforts.”
The Patriarchate of Armenians of Turkey on February 20 also issued a statement regarding the elections.
In the statement, the patriarchate confirmed that Mashalian and Ateshian accepted the summon to Etchmiadzin in Armenia by Karekin II, defined as “praying and consultation.” It is also stated that Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, Primate Diocese of the Armenian Church of Germany, will also attend the meeting.
“Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul is administratively autonomous. Thus, it is clear that the process of election cannot be directed outside of our Patriarchate. In this regard, there cannot be any instruction. After a moral and spiritual purification, concrete steps will be taken with the return of our bishops from the Holy Etchmiadzin,” read part of the statement.
The patriarchate stated that a trustee will be chosen, a new Enterprising Committee will be formed and an application will be made to Istanbul Governor’s Office.
Mashalian on Friday stated that Karekin II called him and expressed his concerns about the course of action taken during the patriarchal election and that the Catholicos’ inviting Bekdjian to the February 23 meeting in Etchmiadzin would help solve the election issue together .