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.
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.