Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, passed away on Friday, March 8th 2019, at Sourp Pirgich (Holy Saviour) Hospital in Istanbul, where he was being cared for. He has been incapacitated since 2008 with early onset dementia. He was born in 1957, educated in Germany and the United States from 1974 to 1979 in Memphis Tennessee, studying sociology and philosophy. Between 1979 and 1981 he continued his theological studies in Jerusalem at St. Monastery. He attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, Italy in 1988 to 1989.
On May 13, 1979, he was ordained into the priesthood and became the pastor of Kinan Island in Istanbul. On September 21, 1986, Mesrob Mutafyan was elevated to the rank of Bishop in Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia. In 1993, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop to serve the church of Princes’ Islands. From 1997, Mutafyan acted as the vicar of general of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Following the death of Karekin II of Patriarch Karekin II, Kazanjian of Constantinople, Mesrob Mutafyan was elected locum tenens on March 16, 1998 to serve as the temporary leader of the Church until an election was held. Even though the Turkish authorities local authorities demanded Abp. Shahan Sivacyan of Uskudar, the retired longest serving archbishop should succeed, Mesrob Mutafyan was finally elected the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople on October 14, 1998.
During his apostolic journey to Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI visited, also the Sourp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchal Church in Kumkapi, Istanbul where he attended a religious ceremony and held later talks with Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan on November 30, 2006. In 2008, Archbishop Aram Ateshyan was appointed to fulfill Patriarch Mesrob’s duties, because he was incapacitated and had dementia. Since then, there has been controversy within the Armenian community arguing that the government would not let election to take place because technically Patriarch Mutafyan was still alive but incapacitated.
A committee has formed to make funeral arrangements. Although the date is not set yet, committee members think it should be the following Saturday or Sunday, and thousands of people are expected to pay their respect. Also, a committee has been formed to organize the election of a new Patriarch after 40 days. At the moment, there are eight possible candidates. The Istanbul Patriarch needs to be Turkish born, therefore the list is very limited.