ISTANBUL (Nor Marmara and Jamanak) — The decision of the German parliament to accept the events of 1915 as genocide created anger in Turkey toward Armenians as well as Germans. Under these circumstances, Istanbul Patriarchal Vicar Archbishop General Aram Ateshian sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticizing the Bundestag resolution and in this fashion making clear the loyalty of the community to Turkey. This in turn led to anger among Armenians in Armenia, the diaspora, and even in Turkey.
The press in Armenia and some deputies of the Armenian parliament organized protests against Ateshian. They threatened to throw eggs at Ateshian if he came to Armenia during Pope Francis’s visit. Ateshian, once he arrived in Moscow ahead of arriving in Armenia, instead chose to return to Turkey rather than head to Armenia.
In Istanbul, a group under the leadership of Tateos Bebek on June 22 went to the Patriarchate and demanded the election of a new patriarch. (The Patriarch of Istanbul, Mesrop Mutafyan, has been suffering from a serious degenerative disease for several years, thus making him incapable of acting as patriarch. Ateshian was installed as acting patriarch until elections could take place.)
The unusual protest was sponsored by the Midk [Mind] association. Bebek and Harutyun Özer, joined by other Armenians that morning entered the cathedral and after lighting candles conducted a short prayer. They then assembled in front of the wall of the gate of the Patriarchate on Sevgi Street and placed a black wreath there upon which was written in Turkish that “We want to elect our patriarch.”
Journalist Jaklin Celik read a declaration in the name of the protestors which repeated this demand. Her speech noted that for eight years, various excuses were used to avoid convening an election to regularize the status of an institution with 550 years of history.
The declaration, made in the name of the “Armenians of Turkey,” also stated that the patriarchal see should have an official legal status. Afterwards the demonstrators silently dispersed. Representatives of Turkish mass media were present at the event.