Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wrestling for Co-Patriarch

The wrestling in the Armenian Patriarchate continues as its Spiritual Board moves to appoint a co-patriarch to serve alongside the disabled Patriarch Mesrob Mutfayan. Mutfayan is suffering from dementia, and though unable to perform his duties as leader of the Armenian Church in Turkey, is likely to continue to serve in the position until the end of his life as dictated by Church law. In the meantime, Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, who is head of the Spiritual Board, is vying for the position and has received criticism within the Armenian community (for example, in the Turkish Armenian newspaper Agos) for using his position to maneuver so as to ensure the invevitability of his own candidacy against other candidates who are abroad at the moment. At the beginning of the ordeal, Ateshyan opposed an election at all, his critics surmising that without an election of a co-patriarch he was able to control the church through his role as head of the Spiritual Board. In an unprecedented move, Armenian community members organized to form an Election Initiative Committee, which has petitioned the Turkish government to elect a new patriarch while ignoring the disabled status of Mutfayan. It is still unclear what move the government will take, if any, and some observers (for example, this American Armenian weekly) have speculated it is in the Turkish government's interests to keep the community divided by taking no action. Ateshyan's competitors live in Armenia and Germany, where both are primates, and have both made recent visits to Turkey. They are eligible because they were born in Turkey, a requirement of the Turkish government and a rule that has been criticized among some members of the Armenian community as hindering the selection of a competent patriarch.

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