“All minorities in Turkey agree on the fact that we are experiencing the most comfortable era during the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) administration”.
This is how Sahak II Masalyan, new Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, sees the situation, according to reports from the Turkish media.
Some statements attributed to the Patriarch – and released in particular on Thursday 2 January by Turkish Akşam daily – seem destined to cause debate.
In his exaltation of the current condition of minorities in Turkey led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Patriarch mentions the changes made in 2008 in the Foundations law.
The Patriarch adds that “the concept of minorities has been used to interfere in Turkey’s internal affairs since the Ottoman Empire”, and that his community was pleased about the state’s interest and care, noting that they can easily contact President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while ministers pay frequent visits and Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya always devotes “close attention to their concerns”.
Masalyan also said the Armenian community in Turkey has nothing to do with the Armenian diaspora, noting that they exploited the issue of the 1915 events as a means to unite the diaspora under a single cause.
“We”, added the Patriarch, “chose to stay in the country and live with the rest of the people. Diaspora is a thing of the past”.
In the statements reported by the Turkish media, the Patriarch recalled that there are less than 60,000 apostolic Armenians throughout Turkey, constantly decreasing, and that 33 of the 38 churches belonging to the Patriarchate are concentrated in the area of Istanbul.
Archbishop Sahak Masalyan was elected Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Constantinople on 11 December. The electoral process for the choice of the new Patriarch was marked by controversies destined to have consequences also in the future, provoked at least in part by the intertwining between ecclesiastical personalities and interference of local secular systems.
In February 2018, the Istanbul governor’s office had canceled the electoral process already started to look for the successor of Patriarch Mesrob. At that time, the Turkish authorities had blocked the electoral process by appealing to the fact that Patriarch Mesrob was still alive, albeit reduced to a vegetative state, and Turkish legal provisions provide that a new Armenian Patriarch can be elected only when the office remains vacant with the death of the predecessor.
More recently, the decree of the Turkish Interior Ministry aimed at narrowing the list of candidates to Archbishops residing in Turkey, excluding the possible candidacy of Archbishops of the Patriarchate residing abroad, had sparked controversy.
Agos Press, published in Istanbul in Armenian and Turkish a few hours before the election of the new Patriarch, had highlighted that the two Archbishops Sahak Masalyan and Aram Ateşyan, had continued “their respective campaigns” without taking into account the concerns expressed by the local community for the exclusion of candidates residing outside Turkey.
A modus operandi which, according to Agos, would have caused negative repercussions on the path of the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Constantinople over time.