ISTANBUL, Turkey (AGOS)—Bishop Sahak Mashalian, the Chairman of the Religious Council of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul, announced his resignation in a statement released on Feb. 13, stating that General Vicar Aram Ateshian is to blame for his decision.
Mashalian stated in his resignation letter that his decision came after the Clerical Assembly meeting on Feb. 13, where he stated that Archbishop Ateshian had “unfavorable attitudes.” Mashalian also announced that he will step down from his candidacy for the patriarchal seat, and has plans to leave Istanbul.
The Religious Council voted Archbishop Aram Ateshian to lead the Patriarchate after Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan withdrew from his duties after diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
In his letter, Mashalian outlined the proper procedure for holding patriarchal elections, indicating Ateshian’s attempts to sabotage the process. He went on to explain that the religious council had set up a commission comprised of four clerics, which was to submit an application to the authorities about holding new elections. However, according to him, Ateshian did not allow the letter to be submitted to the governor of Istanbul, which has suspended the submission process.
Mashalian noted that the elections should be held following the constitutional referendum in Turkey, referring to Armenian community leader Bedros Sirinoglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Jan. 27 meeting. According to Mashalian, the meeting should have accelerated the election process, however, the Grand Vicar used this information as another pretext to avoid elections.
“Ignoring his promise given to the community, he told the media without consulting with anyone that no application will be submitted for holding elections. The Religious Council of the Patriarchy, and I, the chairman of the Council, learned about it from the media,” Mashalian said.
During the Feb. 13 meeting, Mashalian stated that the application should be immediately submitted to the governorate and released to the community. “His Eminence Aram managed to manipulate this issue with his capricious and threatening attitude; he even threatened to leave the meeting,” he wrote in the letter, adding that his proposal was rejected.
“It’s evident that there can be no Patriarchal elections as long as Aram Ateshian holds the position of the General Vicar of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople. Everyone already shares the opinion that the existing situation—the fact that the post is vacant and the chaos grows deeper—worsens due to Aram Ateshian,” said Mashalian, adding that the Patriarchal post has never been vacant for eight years in the Armenian Church’s history. “[Ateshian has been] using his powers, abusing his position… and deserves punishment according to Church laws,” the Mashalian said.
“Clerics, leaders, and people—leave me alone. This is a speech of defeat. But I am not the only defeated. You are all defeated. Once again only one person remains victorious,” Mashalian concluded in his letter.