The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople has a new patriarch today, in the person of Bishop Sahak Mashalian.
Bishop Mashalian was elected as the 85th Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, during a special and long-awaited patriarchal assembly held this week. Delegates to the assembly represented both the clerical order (elected by the patriarchal synod) and the laity (elected by the local Armenian community of Istanbul).
Some 102 delegates voted in the election whose result was announced on December 11, 2019. Voting took place in churches located in Istanbul, central Kayseri province, and southeastern Diyarbakır, Mardin and Hatay provinces.
A New “Father” for a New Era
In his inaugural address as Armenian Patriarch, Bishop Mashalian expressed gratitude to all those who had contributed to his journey to the patriarchal throne, chief among them the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II.
He also noted government authorities of Turkey, including its President, Interior Minister, and the Istanbul Mayor.
With evident joy, he said that the Armenians of Turkey would finally have a “father” again—a reference to the decade-long long period during which the preceding Patriarch, His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan, was incapacitated due to illness.
Patriarch Mesrob’s death in March of this year set in motion the machinery to elect a successor. In a closed door meeting of the Patriarchal congregation last July, Bishop Mashalian was formally elected as locum tenens: the “placeholder” who would administer the patriarchate until a new patriarch could be formally elected.
At the time, Bishop Mashalian expressed a hopeful expectation that an election would be held before the end of 2019; but such a timeframe still had to gain the assent of political and religious authorities. Despite some early contention, assent was eventually forthcoming, and the assembly went forward this week.
The sole other candidate in the 2019 election, longtime Patriarchal Vicar Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, gracefully congratulated the new patriarch after the election. “It is our prayer that a thriving new period will be opened for this age-old Patriarchate,” he wrote, “and that its mission will be enriched with new achievements, in the exaltation of our holy church and for the benefit of our people.”
In his public address on December 11, newly-elected Patriarch Sahak called this the beginning of a new era for the Armenian community: a period of peace and unity. It is likely that he will be known as Patriarch Sahak II; a predecessor of that name served as patriarch in 1707.
Learn More About Patriarch Sahak
In the U.S., Primate of the Eastern Diocese Bishop Daniel, who has been friends with Bishop Sahak for some 30 years, phoned the new Patriarch to offer congratulations. “I wish him God’s blessings and guidance as he assumes this very important role,” Bishop Daniel said.
Bishop Sahak Mashalian was a visitor to the Eastern Diocese last spring, when at the Primate’s invitation he led several clergy retreats and celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Vartan Cathedral in New York. Click on link to watch his sermon on the latter occasion.
He also sat for an interview with journalist Florence Avakian. Click on the link to read the interview and gain an insight into the new Patriarch’s life and outlook.
Click on the link to view video footage from this week’s patriarchal election, including Bishop Sahak’s acceptance address.
By C. H. Zakian