February 3, 2020 - 16:01 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Armenian population in Turkey, which makes up the largest Christian community in the country, “resembles an iceberg melting in the sea” with its almost 60,000 members, the newly elected Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople has said in an interview with daily Hürriyet.
“Our biggest problem is the demography. Our population has been decreasing rapidly. We lose 26 of our adult individuals per 12 newborns. It’s alarming,” said Sahak Mashalian, the 85th Patriarch of Turkey’s Armenians.
He was enthroned as Sahak II in a ceremony held at the Surp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchate Church in Istanbul on Jan. 11.
“We are like an iceberg in a sea of 82 million people. And we are melting. We are also facing emigration. Now, we make up the largest non-Muslim minority in Turkey with a population of between 50,000 and 60,000,” he added, recalling that the number of Greek Christians, another minority protected under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, has dropped below 2,000 in Istanbul.
The international treaty signed between countries including Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Greece ensures the rights of the Christian minority communities in Turkey, however, the necessary internal legislations and regulations have not been made, according to Sahak II.
“Even the Armenian Patriarchate has not been defined. It makes many things extremely difficult, including resorting to the law or obtaining property. Even this building housing us doesn’t belong to the patriarchate, it is the property of the church on the opposite side of the street. We have 38 churches and 42 foundations. But those 38 churches are like 38 different duchies,” he said.
1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire in the first genocide of the 20th century between 1915 and 1923. Turkey denies the Genocide to this day.
On the other hand, Sahak II also hailed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to extend a message of condolences to the descendants of Armenians killed in the Genocide back in 2014.
On Dec. 11, Sahak II won the election held among Armenian Gregorian churches across the country after receiving 102 votes out of 119 against his rival Aram Ateşyan, who had served as acting patriarch during the absence of Mesrob II, the previous patriarch who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease from 2008 until his demise on March 8, 2019.