Acting Armenian Patriarch of Turkey: Shameful Tool of Turkish Propaganda

Archbishop Aram Ateshian, General Vicar of the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, sent a highly controversial letter last week to President Recep Erdogan, criticizing the German Parliament’s decision to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

The Acting Patriarch’s letter created a major controversy among Armenians worldwide, including the Armenian community of Turkey. Some called for his resignation; others, including a member of the Armenian Parliament, demanded that he be defrocked!

Atesyan and Erdogan (Photo:
Ateshian and Erdogan (Photo:

While successive Turkish governments have attempted to pressure Abp. Ateshian’s predecessors to serve as propaganda tool for Ankara, no previous Patriarch has written such an offensive letter regarding the Armenian Genocide.

It is not clear whether the Acting Patriarch wrote last week’s letter on his own initiative or it was drafted for him by Turkish officials. Those who personally know Abp. Ateshian insist that the letter could not have been written by him because he is not too proficient in the Turkish language. Whatever the case, he did sign and disseminate the letter to the media, which was published by several Turkish newspapers.

Regrettably, this is not the first time that the Acting Patriarch has displayed such a boot-licking attitude vis-à-vis the Turkish authorities, intending to secure the support of the government for his hoped for election as Patriarch. During a public meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Istanbul last year, Abp. Ateshian dared to insult her for criticizing Pres. Erdogan’s violations of human rights!

Describing the Armenian Genocide merely as “events that happened during the tragic times of World War I,” Abp. Ateshian stated in his letter that the Armenian community of Turkey shared the Turkish nation’s regret for the German Bundestag’s decision. The Acting Patriarch, speaking on behalf of the Armenian community of Turkey, claimed that the German Parliament “has no right” to pronounce judgment “on behalf of the entire German nation.” He further added: “it is also questionable to what extent this decision expresses the feelings of German citizens.” It is nonsensical for Abp. Ateshian to insist that the Parliament does not speak for the German people, since it adopted the resolution on the Armenian Genocide with a near unanimous vote!

Also, the Acting Patriarch blamed the German Parliament for “sidestepping the negative role of the Third Reich in a few sentences and pointing to the Ottoman Empire as the sole perpetrator.” It is shocking that Abp. Ateshian is covering up Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide and belittling Germany’s honest admission of complicity!

Those who try to justify the Acting Patriarch’s anti-Armenian statements, by claiming that one has to live in Turkey to fully appreciate the oppressive nature of Erdogan’s regime, should know that many Armenians in Turkey are outraged by Abp. Ateshian’s letter. They wrote dozens of messages on his Facebook page, expressing their disagreement.

The harshest criticism of the Acting Patriarch came from the editor of Agos, an Armenian newspaper published in Istanbul: “We read your letter … with sorrow, anger and shame…. Your presentation of the systematic annihilation, by state decision, of its own citizens living on its own lands, using the government’s description as ‘events that happened during the tragic times of World War I,’ is an affront to the ancestors, victims, and survivors in the eyes of the society to which you also belong.”

Contrary to the Acting Patriarch’s claim that Armenians are treated as equals with Turks, Agos asserted that “Armenians have been subjected to discrimination, fascism and public threats.” The newspaper also countered Abp. Ateshian’s statement that the German Parliament’s decision had caused “sorrow and pain,” by affirming: “The pressure that forced you to pen this letter is a source of pain and sorrow for us…. The Armenian community’s identity is harmed by your words, not as you say, by the Bundestag’s decision.”

Agos also told the Acting Patriarch that his letter represented “a specific statement of denialism against your own people. We will shortly see who will ‘enthusiastically welcome’ your words…. We pray that God bestows upon you good sense, sound judgment and thoughtfulness.”

In order not to cause further damage to his people and their sacred cause, I humbly advise Abp. Ateshian to refrain from any future political and propagandistic statements. Otherwise, he should seriously consider resigning from his post, since Armenians of Turkey will never accept him as their chosen Patriarch, even if Erdogan supports his election!



Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Dear Readers,
    I believe this Acting Pariarch should resign. He has lost all credibility by his actions. I am ashamed for him.
    I would like to quote from the last two stanzas of Diana Der Hovannessian’s poem: TWO LANDS.

    Khrimian Hairig lived the life of the land,
    lived the life of the mind,
    and walked the path of the revolutionary.

    He was the shepherd boy who grew up
    to teach Armenians,
    men and women, not to act like sheep.

    Ellen Sarkisian Chesnut

  2. I am simply lost for words! I think Agos has put this person exactly where he belongs, down there at the feet of erdoghan, to facilitate his boot licking activities. Simply outrageous!

  3. How low can you go? Shame and thousand shame on him. He must be defrocked immediately and not allowed to even get anywhere near his office; what is the Armenian church in Turkey waiting for?

  4. The archbishop has totally lost his moral fortitude; he is a lost man.
    His letter is shameful and a downright affront to decency. What objectives does he have by such an insulting and offensive letter.
    What an embarrassment, and this from a religious leader.
    What is more disappointing and depressing is that the reaction of the Armenian church, the Holy see in Etchmiadzin has so far been silence.
    Throughout our history, we have had conflicts between the church and the political organiozations/ movements. This is another sad chapter.
    Vart Adjemian

  5. This was a very poor decision on the part of the Patriarch to make this statement, assuming that he actually wrote it as opposed to someone else writing it and he was forced to sign it. Something that I would not put past the Turkish government. Unfortunately we have in the form of the president of Turkey a person who is a nationalist. He thinks that Turkey should be for Turks only. This of course ignores the fact that the Turkish people are not native to Anatolia, they come from the steppes of Russia. Not very different then the Europeans and others that have come to the new world had subverted the native peoples of the Americas. The attitude and arrogance is unfortunately is the same.

  6. My dear Peter Sherinian
    You are quite right up to the point when you begin to compare the European colonization of the Americas with the barbarian onslaught of the turkic tribes from central Asia. Absolutely no comparison.

  7. Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t our church leaders also appealing to the Armenian community to not rise against the Turks just prior to the genocide? This after understanding well what happened 15 to 20 years prior, in the Hamidian and Adana massacres? Turks are not our friends and never will be. Please understand that.. “Coming to terms” means asking Turks to acknowledge the reality they are nothing more then invaders, occupiers who raped, murdered and who currently enjoy the fruits of those massive crimes. This from a race that thinks of it self ‘superior and entitled’ isn’t going to happen. In my opinion this patriarchs actions were a business transaction in hostile environment. Forget him. Unite as ONE ARMENIA. That’s the answer.

  8. There is no way this man can become a respectable and venered patriarch now! Having lost all credibility, playing a VERY bad political card, all he can expect now is to just be given enough rope to hang himself. The turks themselves wont hesitate to do that, you will see! What a shame!!!
    My great grandafther Fr. Ghevond Gemidjian of Kaiseri was hanged in 1915, and many orhers like him lost their lived, because they refused to denounce their faith and people!!!! And here is someone who is more concerned about his ‘throne’ than his ‘supposed’ calling as spiritual leader of the people. Shame a thousand times! He needs to be removed from the post and defrocked! Why is the Church silent about this outrageous incident? Shame indeed!

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