The Vicar General of the Istanbul Patriarchate Archbishop Aram Ateshian will step down after a decision that was reached at a meeting between the Archbishop, the head of the Patriarchate’s Religious Council Bishop Shahak Mashalian, the Armenian Primate of Germany Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, and His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.According to reports, the Religious Assembly of the Patriarchate will elect a Locum Tenens—a patriarchal alternate—on March 15.
Catholicos Karekin II summoned the two Istanbul clerics to Etchmiadzin after tensions surged in the Patriarchate following Mashalian’s sudden resignation from his post on Feb. 13. Mashalian announced his resignation in a statement stating that General Vicar Aram Ateshian is to blame for his decision.
In his letter, Mashalian outlined the proper procedure for holding patriarchal elections, indicating Ateshian’s attempts to sabotage the process. He went on to explain that the religious council had set up a commission comprised of four clerics, which was to submit an application to the authorities about holding new elections. However, according to him, Ateshian did not allow the letter to be submitted to the governor of Istanbul, which has suspended the submission process.
The Patriarchate’s Religious Council voted Archbishop Aram Ateshian to lead the Patriarchate in 2010 after Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan withdrew from his duties after diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Etchmiadzin press service, it was decided that the election for Locum Tenens will take place on March 15, after which a commission comprised of lay and cleric members of the Patriarchate will lead a Patriarchal election within six months. All high-level clerics, including bishops and archbishops, will have equal rights to participate in the elections of the Locum Tenens.
On Feb. 16, 13 cleric and lay Patriarchate members including both Ateshian and Mashalian, held a secret meeting and agreed on a protocol based on which the Patriarchal elections are to be held on May 28.
Istanbul’s Armenian Jamanak newspaper reported that during the secret meeting, Ateshian and Mashalian “set their differences aside.” Catholicos Karekin II declared the decisions of the secret meeting as “illegal” and summoned the two to Etchmiadzin.