Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   21 July

Istanbul Vice Governor has no authority to interfere in inner-church affairs – expert on Turkish studies

YEREVAN, MARCH 18, ARMENPRESS. Istanbul Vice Governor has no authority to intervene in the internal affairs of the church, Ruben Melkonyan – expert on Turkish studies, told a press conference in “Armenpress”, commenting on the statement of Istanbul authorities who said they don’t recognize the election results of locum tenens of Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.

“As Turkey has one principle, which is the secularism, that country has no right to interfere in church affairs. That statement cannot have a legal significance”, he said.

The expert said it is known that the statement was sent before the election of a Patriarch, but Archbishop Aram Ateshian released it after when he lost the election.

“I don’t think that Istanbul’s Vice Governor is so deeply aware of the internal norms of the Armenian Apostolic Church, he can know the locum tenens concept or the entire election powers. We very often consider various processes as Turkish signatures, but the statement of the Vice Governor can be considered as an Armenian signature. It is obvious that a clergyman who knows very well the internal matters helped the Vice Governor to make and issue that statement”, Ruben Melkonyan said.

The expert stated that the results of the locum tenens election were expected. 23 out of 34 clergymen voted in favor of Archbishop Garegin Bekchian, whereas Ateshian received only 11 votes. Melkonyan said the election showed that those clergymen, who for years have been under Ateshian’s influence, voted against him.

“What happened a few minutes after the locum tenens election, can be said, continued the negative traditions that pawed a way to a new deadlock. The crisis continues, Aram Ateshian released the Istanbul Vice Governor’s note after the election results were known, which is not consistent with any legal, as well as church norm. The Governor’s Office has no levers to interfere in the inner-church affairs. In general, there is no official in Turkey who can and has a right to intervene in church elections”, Ruben Melkonyan said, adding that the elections of a Patriarch are very important for the Armenian community of Turkey. The Patriarch is responsible for Armenians, the Armenian heritage in Turkey. 

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