Armenian church leaders in Turkey are requesting prayer as they approach the election of new leadership for the Armenian Apostolic Church. Turkish authorities have neglected to give the needed approval for the church council to convene so that the church may oversee the formal election of a new patriarch. By stalling the approval process, Turkish authorities are effectively preventing the church from operating under the guidance of pastoral leadership. Religious nationalism in Turkey often causes bureaucratic difficulties with the Christian minority. In some districts, entire churches have been forced to close by authorities. Meanwhile, Christians are increasingly alarmed by the atmosphere of Islamic extremism which is on the rise within Turkey.
9/27/17 Turkey (Middle East Concern) – Turkish Armenian church leaders have requested prayer concerning difficulties surrounding the election of a new leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey due to government interference.
As one of Turkey’s officially recognised churches, the election process for the Patriarch of Constantinople is subject to a degree of government control. The agreed process involves the appointment of a temporary church council to oversee the formal election of the new patriarch. However, the Turkish authorities have not given the necessary approval for the proposed council to convene, effectively stalling the election process.
The situation has been complicated by divisions within the Armenian community and by the persisting political tensions between Turkey and Armenia. The previous patriarch, Mesrop II, suffers ill-health and formally retired 26th October 2016. Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian was elected interim leader (Patriarch Locum Tenens) on 15th March 2017, replacing Archbishop Aram Ateshyan (Patriarchal Vicar General) who had been interim leader since 2010 due to the patriarch’s ill-health. Archbishop Ateshyan has strong political ties with the Turkish government.
It is believed that the Turkish authorities are averse to Archbishop Bekdjian, whose appointment was approved by the church in Armenia. In a notable break from tradition, no invitation was extended to the Armenian Patriarchate for Archbishop Bekdjian to join other church leaders in attending Victory Day celebration on 30th August.