ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)— On March 15, the Clerical Assembly in Istanbul elected Karekin Bekdjian, Primate of the German Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church as Locum Tenens (Patriarchal alternate) reported Istanbul-based Agos news.
Following the election, a notice was handed out by Archbishop Aram Ateshian to the Clerical Assembly that stated that it was illegal to start the election process, according to Agos. The notice was from the Governor’s office to the press and was signed by Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan.
“Considering the unfavorable developments that took place during the meeting on February 16 at the patriarchate, it is determined that starting the election process is legally impossible given the facts that this process might cause disturbance and divisions in the society, that there is already an incumbent vicar and that your society knows the basic proceedings and practices concerning the patriarchal election,” read a part of the statement.
In a response, Bekdjian stated that a group including Ateshian and Mashalian will go to the Istsanbul Governor’s office to explain the situation.
“In this planned meeting, our party will explain the logic of election of the Locum Tenens,” read Bekdjian’s statement. “Then an announcement will be made within the next couple of days.” Bekdjian added that he will not be attending the meeting.
The election of the Locum Tenens is being considered the first step of the Patriarchal elections. The Locum Tenens is responsible for managing the election process as planned.
Thirty members from the Clerical Assembly participated in the elections.
Initially, General Vicar of the Patriarch Aram Ateshian, Bishop Sahag Mashalian, and Armenian Primate of Germany Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian were named as candidates. However, prior to the election, Mashalian withdrew and declared his support for Bekdjian.
Ateshian will now step down as General Vicar.
The Clerical Assembly is expected to form a commission comprising of clergymen and secular figures to organize the transfer of power from the General Vicar to the Locum Tenens in the coming days.
The elections of this initiative group will be organized within 10 days after the election of the Locum Tenens. The group will then organize elections for the Patriarch of Istanbul within a six-month period.