Originally the elections of the Armenian Patriarch were scheduled for May 12. However, as Austrian Catholic Press Agency and DomRadio from Germany report, the election is postponed. The Turkish state has not yet approved the election.
The Interior Ministry of Turkey has not yet responded to the request made by the election committee of the Armenian Patriarch on January 14 of 2010. According to the Turkish regulations the Interior Ministry must give it's approval for a new patriarch to be elected in country's Christian churches: something unheard of in European Union member countries.
The OK has to come also from the Governor's Office of Istanbul.
A similar situation has happened in 1998 when the current Armenian Patriarch Mesrop II was elected. Now, the young Patriarch is gravely ill and the Patriarchate had planned to elect a new Patriarch or a co-Patriarch while Mesrop II is alive.
Currently the Patriarchate is run by Archbishop Aram Atesyan. Other candidates for the election are the Archbishop of the Armenian Diocese in Germany, Karekin Bekdijan, and the Bishop of Gugark in Armenia, Sebuh Tschuldijan.
According to another Turkish law the patriarch must be born in Turkey and be a Turkish citizen. This of course limits the possibilities that the Christian communities have in Turkey.
Other Christian communities in Turkey are also experiencing similar difficulties and limitations of religious freedom. Recently the Greek Patriarch of Istanbul in a documentary made by CBS 60 minutes said "Christians are treated as a second class citizens in Turkey." He was referring to these types of limitations and particularly the ban by the Turkish authorities to reopen the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary near Istanbul. Patriarch Bartholomew said sometimes he feels "crucified."
Yet, Turkey was very vocal defending Swiss Muslim rights when the authorities in Switzerland banned four minarets in November of 2009. Limiting people's religious rights and freedom is equally worrying no matter where it happens.
Written by Armen Hareyan