Turkey MP Garo Paylan denounces state interference in Armenian Patriarchate affairs – EXCLUSIVE

The only solution for the election crisis at the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul is the organization of fair elections, ethnic Armenian MP of Turkey Garo Paylan told ARMENPRESS in an exclusive interview.

Paylan called on the Armenian community of Istanbul not to lose hope and not to accept what is being imposed.

The election process of a patriarch once again entered a deadlock with the Istanbul Governor’s Office letter. Turkey interfered into Armenian church affairs. How do you see the solution of this process?

Crises in democratic structures are solved through democratic elections, through voting. In this case the solution is undoubtedly voting. The Armenian community must be able to organize patriarchal elections without any interference. And everyone should respect the result which will come out of the ballot box.

Do you see the guilt of Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, who remained in office as patriarchal vicar, for the fact that the process reached this situation?

Of course. He was guided not by the interests of the Armenian community, but rather his own. He has entered into a dishonest cooperation with a group of people from within the state, which goal was appointing an enforcer on top of the Armenian community. Thus, he ignored the interests of the [Armenian] community, and at the same time ignored church traditions.

In his final letter before departing the elected locum tenens Archbishop Garegin Bekchyan wrote that this situation can be a reason of division within the Armenian community. Do you agree with the Archbishop?

I definitely agree. There is a chaos inside Turkey, which, naturally is also affecting the Armenian community. Developments in this period of concern for the future of the Armenian community are dividing our structures.

What will you say to the Armenian community of Istanbul?

I urge them not be discouraged whatsoever and not to accept what is being imposed on them. As an Armenian community, we must focus on these election, to which we are entitled, for elimination of the chaos in the spiritual and secular world. We must aim to reach a powerful community, correctly governerd in spiritual and secular terms. I repeat in all platforms that this goal stems from Turkey’s interests also. I will continue efforts in this direction. I urge everyone who feels responsibility in this matter to join these efforts.

Interview by Araks Kasyan

Archbishop Garegin Bekchian, whom Turkish authorities refused to recognize as elected patriarchal locum tenens of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, released a letter before leaving Turkey, Agos reports.

“After serving abroad for more than 50 years, the reason of me coming to Turkey was to end the transition period which was lasting for 9 years. I thought it would be enough to proceed with faith and conscience in this matter, in order for our church and people to achieve success in the patriarchal election. Only now I understand how wrong I was”, Bekchian said in the letter.

He said that after assuming tenure he faced a shocking reality. “Most important being that from the very first day it was clear that the election process will not be able to be advanced transparently, under fair election rules. I don’t think it’s necessary to mention all examples. I neither want to remember nor remind those sad and sorrowing examples”, he said.

“The recent developments are not a consequence of one day. It is so unfortunate that his process, the target of which was seemingly I, was aimed to sabotage the 85th patriarchal elections, this was a result of a long lasting and planned campaign, which began from the very first day that I was elected as locum tenens”, he said, adding that he fears that all of this can even more divide the Armenian community.

The Archbishop mentioned that particularly after the letter from the interior ministry he is forced to leave Istanbul, and stressed that he isn’t a conflicting man by nature.

“My presence should not anyhow cause more damage to the Armenian community which already suffered damage”, he added.

“I decided to leave the country with a goal to begin a new service in the upcoming period, praying for my brother Archbishop Mesrop Mutafyan, who is ill for a long time, his dear mother Mary Mutafyan and you – my dear spiritual brothers”, Bekchian said in the letter.

The Patriarchal seat was declared vacant in 2016 due to the health condition of Patriarch Mutafyan. In March of 2017, Bekchyan was elected patriarchal locum tenens after arriving to Istanbul.


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