Agos Warns that Erdogan’s ruling party is intervening in the “traditions of the church.”
ISTANBUL—Days after the Istanbul Governor’s office rejected efforts for an election of a new Istanbul Patriarch and effectively re-installed the ousted Archbishop Aram Ateshian as the de facto head of the Patriarchate, Turkish government officials met with representatives of the Armenian community to “discuss the situation.”
Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu was joined by the Governor of Istanbul Vasip Sahin on Thursday to, according to the Agos newspaper, “evaluate the situation” after the Istanbul Governor’s office, on Monday, through a letter said that the election of Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian as Locum Tenens was invalid, adding that an election of a Patriarch was not necessary at the moment, since the Patriarch Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, who has been incapacitated since 2008 due to dementia, was still alive.
The latter move effectively re-installed Ateshian, who was voted out last spring after the unanimous election of Bekdjian as Locum Tenens, as the leader of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate in the eyes of the Turkish government.
This has angered the Turkish-Armenian community, which has been preparing for the election of a Patriarch since 2016 and took steps last year to ensure that the process met with all church traditions and laws.
During Thursday’s community meeting, Soylu, the interior minister, said he will discuss the community’s concerns with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
In an article entitled “Thank You For the Intervention,” the Armenian weekly newspaper Agos called the governor’s letter “historic” in that it was spelling out—charting—the relations between the Armenian community and the state.
“The [ruling] Justice and Development Party (AKP) has openly intervened in the traditions of the church and told them they cannot elect their own patriarch,” the Agos editorial asserted, adding that use of the term “so-called” in reference to Archbishop Bekdjian was “a sign of disrespect” toward the Amrenian community.