«Ankara will never want to see an unacceptable religious figure for the Armenians on the Patriarch's throne»: Archbishop Khazhag Parsamian
The issue of electing a new Patriarch of Istanbul has occupied an important place on the Armenian agenda during the last year. For the past 9 years, because of Istanbul Patriarch Mesrop Archbishop Mutafyan's illness, the Patriarch throne has been unoccupied.
Almost a year ago, on March 15 of 2017, the Order of Constantinople Congregation convened a closed session and elected Germany spiritual leader Garegin Archbishop Pekjian as a temporary deputy.
The main duty of Holy father Garegin was to pursue and organize the patriarchal election as soon as possible. But 11 months after the elections the situation has not changed and it is still difficult to say when the 85th Patriarch of Constantinople will be elected.
Head of the Eastern Diocese of the United States, Archbishop Khazhag Parsamian recently was at the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin. «Hay Dzayn», on this occasion, held an interview with Parsamian, the overall focus of which was specifically put on the general situation of Constantinople Patriarchate, as well as the Patriarch election process.
- Your Eminence, what is the main reason for your coming to Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin?
- The reason I am in Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin is another ecumenical assembly that I attend as one of the Mother See representatives. It has also been a long time since I have been following various religious assemblies. For the past 15 years, as an Eastern Orthodox Church, we have had a dialogue with the Catholic Church, which has been generally held in Vatican or at one of the Eastern Orthodox churches seats. This is the second assembly to be summed up at Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin. Moreover, according to the instruction by the Catholicos of all Armenians, His Holiness Garegin B, I am part of the delegation, representing the Mother See at the assembly.
- Your Eminence, we all know that the issue of the Constantinople Patriarch election is a crucial part on the Armenian agenda. We believe you are following the developments around this issue more closely. In this regard, what can you say to the readers of «Hay Dzayn»?
- As you mentioned, it is very important not only for Turkish Armenians, but for all the Armenians in general to elect their new Patriarch, because Constantinople is one of the most honorable patriarchal thrones and because of Mesrop Patriarch’s illness, unfortunately, it has been unoccupied for already nine years. Recently, the doctors' conclusions were that His Eminence Archbishop Mesrop unfortunately might not be able to return in order to continue his mission. Of course, being Christians, we believe in miracles but the decision is that a new patriarch should be elected. This is currently our desire and the more quickly we elect our new Patriarch, the more beneficial it will be for us, because as you might know this situation has created some problems for the Armenian community of Constantinople. The quick implementation of the elections will be right not only for Constantinople but the entire Armenian Church as well.
In order this to be accomplished, a body of 3-4 persons should be assigned, the members of which would be acceptable for all the Armenian communities’’ members, also, these individuals should be directing the public in the right way. In the course of this process, the body should also contact and cooperate with the Turkish authorities. Certainly, co-operation does not mean that the body has to implement the dictations or aspirations of the Turkish state, but if it does not cooperate with the state, like any other structure, then the problem of patriarchal election can become more complicated and create a more difficult situation.
- Your Eminence, do Your words mean that the initiating body, assigned by His Holiness Garegin Archbishop Pekjian, is facing some difficulties or it is not completing its mission properly?
- The nowadays phenomenon is that the patriarchal election process or concerning works are not progressing and there is no co-operation with the state on this issue. As long as there is no support by the state, this process will remain at the same level of implementation. This issue must be reviewed from a more realistic point of view, consequently, a new structure or body should be assembled and its members should go to the state and openly discuss all the issues, presenting their point of view and listening to that of the state.
- Your Eminence, we also know from the mass media that you, a clergyman born to Turkey, are naturally a candidate for this post, and we also know that your name is present in the persons’ list that Garegin Archbishop Pekjian sent an official letter to, concerning the issue of candidates for patriarchal elections. What would you say in this regard?
- I received a letter from Garegin Archbishop Pekjian and I responded to it, both written and orally, that I am not a candidate for the Patriarch post.
- Answering my last question, what can you say about His Holliness Aram Ateshian? Because as we know, not only in Turkey, but also among the Diaspora and in Armenia there are some reservations around his name. Would you comment about this?
- You know, the Patriarch of Constantinople must be elected by the community, it is the community to decide whether the name of Aram Ateshian or others’ names will be included on the list on the election eve or on the election day. After all, the Armenian community of Constantinople must be the one to say the last word about the Patriarch election. But I would like to give my personal opinion here as well. In my opinion, today the Turkish state wants to see such a personality on the patriarchal throne that is accepted and respected both by the Constantinople community and by Armenia and all the Diaspora Armenians. Concerning this matter, there cannot be a person that would get totally accepted by the community but certainly there is a personality that enjoys the sympathy and respect of the Armenians' great majority.
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