ISTANBUL—The Governor of Istanbul has officially rejected Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian’s March 2017 election as the Armenian Patriarchal Locum Tenens (Patriarchal alternate).
In a letter sent to the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople on Monday, the governor noted that Turkish authorities did not recognize Archbishop Bekdjian and regarded Archbishop Aram Ateshian as the legitimate Vicar-General of the Armenian Patriarchate.
The Istanbul Governor’s office has also notified the Patriarchate that the only criteria for a patriarchal election are the death of the sitting patriarch, his resignation, or the vacancy of the position for other reasons.
Patriarch Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, who suffers from dementia and has been incapacitated for years, continues to be the recognized by the Turkish state as the leader of the Patriarchate, as the Governor’s office stated illness does not meet the state’s criteria for electing a new patriarch.
The letter notes that the office cannot accept any appeal or letter sent by Archbishop Bekdjian, despite the fact that he was elected by the religious council in place at the Patriarchate.
On March 15, 2017, the Clerical Assembly in Istanbul elected Karekin Bekdjian, Primate of the German Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, as Locum Tenens. Following the election, a notice was handed out by Archbishop Ateshian to the Clerical Assembly that stated it was illegal to start the election process. The notice was from the Governor’s office to the press and was signed by Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan.
For more information and background on the controversy, read Harut Sassounian’s Nov. 7, 2017 column, “The Istanbul Armenian Community’s Patriarch Dilemma.”