Turkey’s Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan dies at age 63

The Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan, the leader of the Armenian Christians in Turkey, died Friday at the age of 63, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The 84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople passed away at Istanbul’s Armenian Surp Pirgic hospital where he was being cared for. He had been incapacitated since 2008 with an early onset of dementia, said Anadolu Agency.

Funeral details were not immediately available.

Mutafyan was elected patriarch in 1998, replacing the late Karekin II. After Mutafyan’s health was deteriorated, the Turkish authorities in 2008 appointed Archbishop Aram Ateşyan as deputy chairman, a position which did not exist until that time.

The Armenian Church in Istanbul objected to the appointment, saying that only the Armenian community could select their religious leader. After years-long-disputes, a new election was held in 2017.

The Turkish government intervened to halt the elections at the Armenian Patriarchate on grounds that the necessary conditions for the electoral process had not been met and that Mutafyan was still alive.

Ateşyan, who was likely to lose the election, remains as the General Vicar of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.