Istanbul Patriarchate Elects a Locum Tenens

The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople took an important step towards the election of a new patriarch last week, when it chose Bishop Sahak Mashalian to fill the role of “locum tenens”: the “placeholder” who will administer the Patriarchate until a new Armenian Patriarch is chosen.

The election of Bishop Mashalian was the result of a closed-door meeting of the patriarchal congregation on July 4, which was scheduled to follow the mourning period for the late Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, who passed away last March following a decade of incapacitation due to illness.

In his role as locum tenens, Bishop Mashalian’s principle task will be to organize a patriarchal election, while managing the operations of the Patriarchate until then.

Towards a Patriarchal Election

In remarks to the public following the July 4 meeting, he said: “The congregational assembly has chosen me as locum tenens by a majority of the votes. Now, the placeholder should order the election process, lead all ecclesiastical meetings, and ensure that the elections are held impartially. I am very grateful that my church brothers have shown this confidence in me, and I will try to be worthy of the trust given me by our clergy and people.”

The Istanbul native has previously served in the Armenian Church’s Jerusalem Patriarchate; in Armenia as dean of Holy Etchmiadzin’s Kevorkian Seminary; and at the Istanbul Patriarchate as director of ecumenical and interfaith relations, and secretary of the Religious Council.

The election of an 85th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople could take place before the end of the year—but the timeframe depends on the assent of political and religious authorities.

When the election is scheduled, Bishop Mashalian is expected to be among the candidates, along with the long-serving patriarchal vicar Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, and others as yet unannounced.

Bishop Mashalian visited the Eastern Diocese earlier this year. Click on the following links to read Bishop Sahak Mashalian’s interview during his visit, and to watch a video of the sermon he delivered when he celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York.

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