Post Patriarch Passing Progress Possible

Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan

As you already know, the Armenian Patriarch of Bolis (Constantinople, Istanbul), Mesrob Mutafyan died about a week ago at the age of 62.

While this is sad, in other ways it is also good news. He had been incapacitated since 2008 because of very early onset Alzheimer’s. This has caused no end of problems for our compatriots in Turkey.

Because nothing like this has occurred since 1461 when the patriarchate was established, there was no mechanism in place to remove him from office and a workaround was nixed by the Turkish government. Five and a half centuries… not a bad run! But something like this was inevitable and should now be addressed for the future.

The person acting in his place, Aram Ateshian, has proven himself to be a tool of the Turkish government to a degree that is probably unprecedented, a far cry from what Armenians living under the Turkish yoke need, and to a reasonable degree got, from Mutafyan and his predecessor Shnorhk Kaloustian. Ateshian torpedoed an attempt to elect a new patriarch last year through the intervention of the Turkish authorities because he was far from assured to be the chosen one.

Sometime soon an election for a new patriarch will be scheduled. This presents an opportunity to choose someone who has the interests of the Armenian communities of Turkey at heart, rather than being on a power trip. Anyone who fits the latter description will always be far more susceptible to the machinations of Ankara in a situation where it is already very challenging to safeguard Armenians from Ankara’s “tender,” anti-Armenian, assimilative mercies.

There must be a mechanism in place to replace a future patriarch whose health deteriorates to the point where he cannot perform his duties.

I do not know the rules of the various church meetings that will be held and what is permitted on the agendas of such meetings. But the other important issue to be addressed is the one Mutafyan’s condition confronted us with. There must be a mechanism in place to replace a future patriarch whose health deteriorates to the point where he cannot perform his duties.

At the same time, great caution must be exercised because a health-based replacement procedure could be manipulated and abused. Safeguards must be built in so that some faction in the community that comes to dislike a patriarch cannot abuse “health” as a convenient, but unfounded, tool to discard a sitting patriarch.

This is also an opportunity to maximize the independence of the patriarchate from Ankara’s intrusions. A self-confident approach by our community, leading to the election of a patriarch who enjoys broad support will give him much greater ability to stand up to inappropriate involvement by Turkish authorities.

Armenian member of Turkish parliament Garo Paylan has advocated that Ankara keep its nose clear of the Armenian community’s business. In Defense of Christians, an advocacy group, has also issued a call for Ankara not to intrude.

Let’s all join in the effort to enable ALL Armenians in Turkey, perhaps even the Islamicized ones, to have a clean patriarchal election and enactment of church rules to address future instances of patriarchal incapacity.

Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.
Garen Yegparian

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1 Comment

  1. I agree with your assessment and the implications of this election. The Turkish meddling in the affairs of our church is not only contrary to the “freedom of religion” expressed in the Treaty of Lausanne but has succeeded in dividing the Armenian community. This process was aided and abetted by Archbishop Ateshian. The “palace intrigue” during the locus tenes fiasco was a ploy of Ateshian. Have we forgotten his disgraceful “apology” to the Turkish government after the German Parliament Genocide recognition. We all understand the delicate balance that lay and clergy leaders must maintain to function in anoppressive society. Ateshian , however, makes little effort to use his position to protect Armenian interests. Garo Paylan, who is under much more risk , works tirelessly to keep Armenian issues public. Instead, Ateshian played embarrassing games with our church playing right into the Turkish hands.
    In addition, as vicar the last several years, he has done very little to advance issues that desperately need an Armenian presence…… properties of Armenian foundations, the status of Holy Cross at Aghtamar, other properties that the Turks wither ignore or unilaterally work on(Ani complex, Mren Cathedral). What about the forty plus year closure of the Armenian seminary. How long before very few qualify for the Turkish requirements for eligibility. No leadership. He is not qualified. We hope that another candidate prevails.

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