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Participating in the pilgrimage organised by the youth of the community, His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul and all Turkey, and his entourage had a road accident on a mountain
slope about five km north of Antalya.
Altogether 57 Armenian pilgrims from Istanbul went on a four day pilgrimage to Antalya in southern Turkey, visiting sites where St. Paul had preached. The trip was organised by the Youth Group of the
Patriarchal See and was attended also by the Patriarch, Father Sahag Masalyan, Father John Whooley, photography artist Manuel Citak, and attorney Luiz Bakar. Having visited Perge, the Patriarch and the pilgrims held a liturgy in St. Paul’s Centre, Antalya, and on the following day, Sunday February 1st, before continuing on to other ancient sites such as Phaselis, Olympos and Myra, they had a mid-day picnic, at the Saklikent mountain resort on the Taurus Range about two hours north of Antalya. At 17:00 hours on the way down the mountain, the breaks of the midibus in which the Patriarch and his entourage were traveling failed, and following a loss of control, the midibus crashed into the side of the mountain. Fortunately, the vehicle stayed on the left side, as there was a precipice on the other side.
The other two midibuses carrying the rest of the group were not involved in the accident. The Patriarch was injured as well as the artist Manuel Citak, Luiz Bakar and one of the patriarchal assistants Hovhannes Bayram. Slight injuries were sustained by Father Sahag Masalyan, Father John Whooley, Arlin Sahbaz, Arda Sari, Aris Tepeli.
Being in a remote area, the security centre was informed by cell phone. In a matter of seconds, the Governor of Antalya and the Minister of the Interior of the Turkish Republic called the Patriarch to wish him a quick recovery and informed the gendarmery and the health department to take immediate action. In only twenty minutes, the gendarmery and three ambulances reached the site of the
accident. All the injured were transferred to the Akdeniz Foundation Hospital in Antalya where a group of medical experts were waiting, having been informed by Interior Ministry. On arrival, the injured
were taken immediately to the Emergency Unit and the necessary medical examinations were carried out.
As a result, it was discovered that the Patriarch’s nose had been broken and that there was a three centimetre tear in the nasopharingeal area. His right leg sustained a multiple fracture of
the tibia. Necessary emergency treatment was given to him and to the other injured persons. The following morning, Monday, February 2nd, all the injured, except attorney Luiz Bakar whose injuries were such as to prevent immediate travel, were flown to Istanbul, three of them including the Patriarch being on stretchers. All were hospitalised in the Holy Saviour Armenian Hospital in Yedikule,
The Patriarch underwent his first operation, that is to say on the nose, at four in the afternoon and then at night the leg was operated on, which lasted for three and a half hours. Manuel Citak was operated on Tuesday February 3rd. The chief surgeon of the Hospital, Dr. Arman Cakir, issued a statement informing the Armenian community and the public at large that the operations on the Patriarch were successful and that he was responding well to the treatment and there was nothing threatening to his life system.
His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia in Antellias, His Beatitude Torkom II of Jerusalem, the Papal Nuncio in Ankara, His
Excellency Edmond Farhad in his and Pope John Paul II’s name, the Turkish Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Foreign Minister Mr. Abdullah Gul, Interior Minister Mr. Abdulkadir Aksu,
the governors of Istanbul and Antalya — all contacted the Patriarch by telephone, and hundreds sent their good-wishes by fax and e-mail.
The Patriarch will remain in hospital for at least a week at the end of which the medical board will decide when he should be discharged. The cast and the plaster on his nose will be removed on Monday, February 9th. He will not be able to use his right foot for at least six weeks.
The Armenian Patriarchate complex which has been undergoing a major renovation over the last three years following the earthquake of 1999 was meant to be opened just before Great Lent this year. The
Religious Council has now decided to postpone the opening till after Holy Easter.