Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan (in Armenian Մեսրոպ Բ Մութաֆեան), also known as Mesrop Mutafyan (June 16, 1956, Istanbul, Turkey), is the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople is one of the four Sees of Armenian Apostolic Church (the other three being Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Holy See of Cilicia and the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem) and has an autocephalous status, accepting, on the other hand, spiritual supremacy of the Catholicos of Armenia and of all Armenians in Holy Echmiadzin.
Mesrob Mutafyan graduated from the American High School in Kornwestheim near Stuttgart, Germany. From 1974 to 1979, he studied philosophy and sociology in Memphis, Tennessee, United States.
On May 13, 1979, he was ordained to priesthood and was commissioned pastor of Kınalıada, one of the Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara in İstanbul with a small Armenian community. Between 1979 and 1981, he continued his theological studies in Jerusalem.
On September 21, 1986, Mesrob Mutafyan was elevated to the rank of a Bishop in Echmiadzin, Armenia. From 1982 to 1990, he coordinated the ecumenical relationships of the Patriarchate. He attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, Italy in 1988/1989.
In 1993, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop to serve the diocese of Prince Islands. From 1997, Mutafyan acted as the vicar general of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Following the death of Patriarch Karekin II Kazanjian of Constantinople, Mesrob Mutafyan was elected locum tenens on March 16, 1998 to serve as the temporary leader of the Church until an election is held. Even though the Turkish local authorities demanded Archbishop of Üsküdar Şahan Sıvaciyan, the retired longest-serving archbishop, should succeed, Mesrob Mutafyan was finally elected the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople on October 14, 1998 and could take office. During his apostolic journey to Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI visited also the Surp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchal Church in Kumkapı, İstanbul, where he attended a religious ceremony and held later talks with Patriarch Mesrob II on November 30, 2006.
He is also a member of the Elijah Interfaith Institute Board of World Religious Leaders.
Illness and elections for locum tenens
In July 2008, it was announced that Mesrob Mutafyan was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and has since withdrawn from all his duties and from public life; however he still officially remained patriarch and archbishop. Archbishop Aram Ateşyan, who is from Diyarbakır, is running the day-to-day affairs of the Patriarchate after being appointed as Patriarchal Vicar of Constantinople with 25 of the 26 members of the Religious Council voting for him and awaiting the official election of a new Patriarch. But there has been public dissent about his temporary appointment including mass resignation of the acting Finance Committee of the Patriarchate. An official communiqué confirmed on January 14, 2011 that the Patriarch was suffering from Frontal temporal degenerative dementia, and that his physical and mental situation had deteriorated very rapidly.
Archbishop Aram Ateşyan has been the Locum tenens (Pokhanort in Armenian) since 2010 because of ill health of the Patriarch. On October 26, 2016, Mesrob Mutafyan was retired by the synod because of his illness which continues more than 7 years.
As tensions escalated leading to the resignation of head of Patriarchate’s Religious Council Bishop Shahak Mashalian, Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians summoned the lead clerics including Ateşyan, Mashalian and Bekdjian from Istanbul to Etchmiadzin for a mediated solution in February 2017. The decision was taken to hold elections for a Locum Tenens on March 15, followed by a patriarchal election within six months.
On March 15, 2017, Patriarchate's Clerical Assembly elected Archishop Karekin Bekdjian, the Primate of the Armenian Church Diocese of Germany as Locum tenens or Patriarchal alternate (Deghabah). But Archbishop Ateşyan refused to step down after the election of Bekdjian.