Today’s Zaman, Turkey
June 3 2011
550th anniversary of Armenian Patriarchate celebrated, accompanied by
03 June 2011, Friday / YONCA POYRAZ DOÄ?AN , Ä°STANBUL
It has been 550 years since Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror
declared the Archbishop Hovagim the Patriarch of the Ä°stanbul
Armenians in 1461.
The Armenian Church and the Armenian Community in Ä°stanbul celebrated
last Sunday the 550th anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian
Patriarchate and a group of Ä°stanbul Armenians held a silent protest
wearing black and purple ribbons to stand against the government’s
decision to appoint a co-patriarch in addition to current the Armenian
patriarch of Constantinople, Mesrob Mutafyan, who is seriously ill.
`We did not want to mar the 550th celebrations; therefore, we told the
church that a symbolic group of 100 people will be at the celebrations
having a silent protest and wearing ribbons,’ said Harut Ã-zer,
spokesperson for the `We want to Elect Our Own Patriarch Initiative,’
which last year collected close to 6,000 signatures to appeal to Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄ?an to restore their right to elect a
Ã-zer said that they also have court cases against the decision of the
Interior Ministry and the governor’s office because they think their
citizenship rights have been violated.
Recalling the process of electing the patriarch, he said that while
they were waiting for the elections to happen in May last year, the
Interior Ministry came up with the new post of `General Acting
President’ for the Patriarchate; then, a few days later, Archbishop
Aram AteÅ?yan, spiritual leader of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey,
declared this position through a decision of the Spiritual Leaders
Council of the Patriarchate.
In December, the Armenian Patriarchate issued a statement, saying that
the Turkish government did not prevent the Armenian community from
electing its patriarch.
`The rumors that the Turkish State is trying to debar Armenians from
electing a patriarch are unfounded and untrue. A new patriarch will be
elected after Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Mutafyan’s death,
according to the Armenian church’s traditions. Any change on the
matter is not being discussed,’ the patriarchate said.
According to Tatyos Bebek from the `We Want to Elect Our Own Patriarch
Initiative,’ AteÅ?yan does not mind the state’s decision to keep the
civilian community away from the election of the patriarch. `Some
Armenian community leaders also embrace this position. However,
traditionally and in practice, the Patriarch is both a religious and
community leader,’ he said.
In addition, Ã-zer said when they had a meeting with Interior Ministry
officials last year they indicated that there was a `mistake made’ due
to `inadequate information’ regarding the circumstances and it will be
corrected following the June 12 election. Meanwhile, Ã-zer said AteÅ?yan
did not adequately meet their appointment demands.
`He should not have demanded to wear his robe from the government,’ he
said. `Our legal advisers say that this move can lead to removal of
rights of civilians to elect their patriarch.’
Elected patriarch for life in 1998 by the Armenian community, Armenian
Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan is seriously ill.
AteÅ?yan’s rivals are Bishop Sebouh Chuljyan, the primate of the
Gougark diocese in Armenia, and Bishop Karekin Bekjyan, the religious
leader of Germany’s Armenian community, both of whom are strong
candidates for the position of co-patriarch, and they also noted
problems in the election process of co-patriarch during their January
2010 visit to Turkey. They are both qualified to take up the position
since they were both born in Turkey as required and have impressive
Both Ã-zer and Bebek stated that although young people in the community
are demanding more vigorous protests, the `silent protest’ will
continue each Sunday in Armenian churches, and in addition they will
have informative meetings with the Armenian community and Armenian
community leaders to gain their support.
Despite all of this, the celebrations for 550th Anniversary of the
establishment of the Armenian Patriarchate in Ä°stanbul went smoothly
on May 29 at the Surp Asdvadzadzin Church in the district of KumkapÄ±.
Attended by many high ranking religious leaders from abroad, including
from Armenia, Jerusalem and Germany, there were also spiritual leaders
of Greeks and Syriacs in Turkey. Å?iÅ?li Mayor Mustafa SarÄ±gÃ¼l and
GÃ¼lbenkian Foundations’s Armenian Department Director Zaven Yegavian
were honored with the Patriarch Golod Medal at the ceremony.