(Hurriyet) - The Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey has restarted implementing regulations in regards to mixed marriages, under which Armenians marrying a person of a different religion will no longer receive a blessing or be permitted to conduct a church wedding.
The permission for a church wedding for mixed marriages started in 2000 with Patriarch Mesrop Mutafyan’s approval, but the move sparked debate within the community.
“We are putting into practice a law that already exists in our church. I do not want to make any other statement than this,” acting Patriarch Aram Ateşyan told the Hürriyet Daily News regarding the latest move.
The new regulation went into effect Oct. 1.
Armenians in mixed marriages, as well as those from the community engaged to non-Armenians, gave partial support to the patriarchate but also expressed criticism on the matter.
Murat Kaspar, a 36-year-old design editor at daily Dünya who married a Muslim Turk last month, said the church’s decision stemmed from a desire to protect the community and its traditions amid the country’s shrinking Armenian population.
“I do not think this decision is right. To have a church wedding is a tradition. If those couples who will get married respect each other’s beliefs, then this should not be prevented. I oppose conservatism,” he said.
Zakarya Mildanoğlu, a prominent member of the Armenian community, married a Muslim Turkish woman 35 years ago. “We had to go through extreme difficulties. Even though my wife converted to my religion, our children were not baptized,” he said.
“Despite all the difficulties, I have not even for one moment thought about taking a step back. Fortunately, I married my wife. If I had married an Armenian, I don’t know if I would have been this happy. It was my mother, not us, who experienced sadness. She was very sad that the church refused to baptize the children,” Mildanoğlu said.
‘I feel restricted’
Kristin, 33, who did not want to disclose her last name, is set to marry a Muslim Turk. While she said she understood that the measures were designed to protect the community, she also said she was against the practice.
“The decision the patriarchate made seems wrong to me; I feel like I am restricted. I even want to hide my last name while I’m talking to you because my family and some of my close friends do not know about my relationship,” she said. “I’m afraid of community pressure.”
Kristin said the choice of two people and their respect for each other were more important than anything else, while criticizing the failure to bless the Muslim spouse in the church. A misunderstanding of what marriage and unity really are. A confusion about what is truly important in this life and the next. A confusion about its effects on your children.
“Couples cannot get married the way they wish to. Their marriages are not accepted but their children are baptized. This is a controversy,” she said.
But Anahid, 28, said she agreed with the patriarchate. “The regulations of the Armenian Church and the community are definite and they should be respected. The patriarchate is not inventing a new practice. They are putting into practice one that already exists. There is a serious increase in mixed marriages. The population, traditions and the culture should be protected.”