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Archbishop Bekçiyan decides to leave Turkey over patriarch election row

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Archbishop Karekin Bekçiyan, the primate of the Armenian diocese of Germany who was elected last March as “degabah,” or trustee to officially launch and manage the election of the Armenian patriarch in Turkey but was not recognized by the Turkish government, has decided to leave Turkey, according the Agos Armenian weekly.

Bekçiyan would run the patriarchate until the new patriarch assumes office. Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafyan, the spiritual leader of Turkey’s Armenians, fell ill in 2008 and has been unable to perform his duties since then.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey had been planning to hold patriarchal elections to replace Mutafyan. The patriarchate sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior Affairs in which they expressed their wish to hold an election for a new patriarch. However, the İstanbul Governor’s Office on Feb. 5 rejected the patriarchate’s demands, saying that Mutafyan was still alive and that the necessary conditions in the election process had not been met, which meant keeping Mutafyan in the position.

The letter from the İstanbul Governor’s Office reportedly used the word “so-called” in relation to Bekçiyan, which meant that Bekçiyan is not recognized by Turkey.

Writing a letter of farewell before leaving Turkey, Bekçiyan said although the latest developments are presented as targeting him, what is being aimed at is the sabotaging of the election of the new patriarch.

He said the reason for his coming to Turkey after serving for more than 50 years abroad was to make a contribution to the termination of the nine-year-long transition period at the patriarchate and its having a legitimate leader in line with the traditions of the patriarchate.

“Dear friends, the latest developments did not take place in one day. Unfortunately, this result that appears to target me is actually aimed at sabotaging the 85th Patriarchal Election and the product of a long and planned campaign. This campaign began on the first day of my being elected as degabah. Saddening, painful and thought-provoking intrigues were plotted. The dark campaigns reached very ugly proportions. I am afraid this could further exhaust and even degenerate our community,” Bekçiyan wrote in his letter.

In a message from his Twitter account on Tuesday, Garo Paylan, an Armenian deputy from the ranks of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP), wrote that the Armenian community does not approve a government-appointed trustee to the Patriarchate and wants to elect their own patriarch.

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