March 18, 2019 - 11:01 AMT
Istanbul bids farewell to late Armenian Patriarch

Turkey mourns Mesrob Mutafyan, or Mesrob II as he is formally known, the late Armenian patriarch who passed away on March 8. A huge crowd filled the narrow alleys around Surp Asdvadzadzin, the church of the patriarchate, in Istanbul on Sunday for a funeral ceremony for the beloved religious leader, Daily Sabah reports.

Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın, former prime minister and mayoral candidate for Istanbul Binali Yıldırım, representatives of foreign missions in Turkey and dignitaries joined the Armenian faithful mourning Mutafyan. Following a solemn ceremony by bishops of the patriarchate, Mutafyan was buried at Şişli Armenian Cemetery a few kilometers away from the church in a burial plot for deceased leaders of the patriarchate. Mutafyan died at the age of 63 after a long battle with dementia that he was diagnosed with in 2008.

He was in a vegetative state at a hospital in Istanbul run by an Armenian foundation when he passed away. The Armenian Patriarchate has declared a mourning period for the late patriarch until Easter mass on April 21. Churches are barred from hosting or organizing any non-religious events during the mourning period.

The patriarch was 84th in a long line of Armenian religious leaders and succeeded Karekin II in 1998. He was a respected figure both in the Armenian community and in Turkey.

He was a respected figure for the Armenian community that is mainly concentrated in Istanbul. "We share the pains of Turkey's Armenians and Armenian society in general today. Mr. Mutafyan was a patriotic man this country raised, with his role as spiritual leader and as an intellectual. He always adhered to a uniting, embracing identity during his religious duty. He carried out important tasks for Turks and Armenians to get closer to each other and have a better understanding of each other," Kalın said on the sidelines of the funeral.