Armenian patriarch in Turkey, Mesrob II, dies at 62
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Armenian patriarch in Turkey, Mesrob II, dies at 62

84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople dies at a hospital where he was cared for since he was incapacitated in 2008 with dementia

Patriarch Mesrob II, the spiritual leaders of Turkey's Armenian Orthodox community, looks toward cameras after a ceremony marking the restoration of the Akhtamar church, one of the most precious remnants of Armenian culture 1,000 years ago, in Lake Van in eastern Turkey, Thursday, March 29, 2007.  (AP Photo)
Patriarch Mesrob II, the spiritual leaders of Turkey's Armenian Orthodox community, looks toward cameras after a ceremony marking the restoration of the Akhtamar church, one of the most precious remnants of Armenian culture 1,000 years ago, in Lake Van in eastern Turkey, Thursday, March 29, 2007. (AP Photo)

ANKARA, Turkey — Patriarch Mesrob II, the leader of the Armenian Orthodox Christians in Turkey, has died. He was 62.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said Mesrob Mutafyan, the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, died Friday 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.

Mesrob was elected Patriarch in 1998, replacing the late Karekin II. He withdrew from his duties in 2008 and Archbishop Aram Atesyan was appointed as the acting patriarch for the Armenian community which numbers an estimated 70,000.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials called Atesyan to offer their condolences.

Garo Paylan, a member of the Armenian community and a legislator in Turkey’s parliament said on Twitter: “Patriarch Mutafyan will remain in our minds as a memorable spiritual leader.”

Mesrob was born Minas Mutafyan in Istanbul in 1956. He was ordained in 1979 following studies in Germany and the United States.

Funeral details weren’t immediately available.

Preparations for the election of a new patriarch for Turkey were expected to begin after a 40-day mourning period.

Last year, the Turkish government intervened to halt elections at the patriarchate, on the grounds “that the necessary conditions for the electoral process had not been met” and that Mesrob was still alive.

Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Nourhan Manougian, and clergy members, lead the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet at the Armenian Saint James Church in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, on Maundy Thursday, during Easter week, April 28, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

There is a separate Armenian Patriarch in Jerusalem who leads a dwindling following of Armenians in the Holy City. One of the four quarters of the Old City belongs to them. Armenians have a 1,600-year presence in the city. But a combination of political forces and the draw of a better life elsewhere have seen their numbers quietly drop below 1,000 people.

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