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Turkish Court Allows Exhumation of Archbishop Shahan Svajian For DNA Testıng

Hetq.am / Sako Arian – Woman Claims Former Constantinople Vicar General Was Her Father.  Based on the claim of a woman in Turkey that the recently deceased Vicar General of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople was her father, a Turkish court has permitted the exhumation of the clergyman for DNA testing.

According to the Istanbul Armenian newspaper Jamanag,
Takouhie Balkin filed a claim with the court alleging that she is the daughter of Archbishop Shahan Svajian, who died at the age of 87 on September 23, 2013. Not only are reputations at stake, but also Archbishop  Svajian’s inheritance, which the late clergyman willed to Istanbul Armenian institutions.
For further clarification I contacted Jamanag Editor Sevan Deirmendjian, who told me that the clergyman’s grave, located in the Holy Cross Armenian Church section of the Scutari Bağlarbaşı cemetery, and was exhumed for DNA testing. The graves of such Armenian notables as Bedros Tourian and Mateos Zarifian are located here.
“This morning I was able to get in touch with Hovhannes Goboyian, secretary of the Holy Cross Parish Council, who verified that the grave had been opened on the orders of the court,” Deirmendjian said, adding that a piece of Archbishop Svajian’s tooth was taken for testing.
The Jamanag editor added that Takouhie Balkin, the woman in question, is about twenty years younger than the deceased archbishop.
Vahan Svajian, the late archbishop’s nephew told Jamanag that he doesn’t know all the particulars of the court case, but that he rushed to the cemetery with his lawyer on the day of the exhumation. The nephew told the newspaper that he would be closely following developments in the court.
Deirmendjian reluctantly confessed that according to rumors circulating in the Armenian community, the archbishop had fathered a daughter before becoming a celibate priest. The mother was said to have died during childbirth and the girl was handed over to the grandmother.
Even if the rumors are proven true, the editor told me, they cannot cast a shadow over Archbishop Svajian’s dedicated service as a clergyman.
How the court case will affect the inheritance issue remains to be seen. If the court recognizes Takouhie Balkin as the legal heir of the late archbishop will it also rule that the assets be turned over to her? What remains puzzling is the silence of the Constantinople Patriarchate?
In this regard Deirmendjian noted that in the eyes of the Turkish legal system Archbishop Svajian was an ordinary citizen of Turkey, and that in response to Balkin’s suit the courts must launch an investigation.
Another nagging question that raises a degree of doubt over the “impartiality” of the actions of the Turkish legal system is where has Takouhie Balkin been hiding for all these years?
If the Turkish authorities regard the decision to exhume the grave of Archbishop Svajian as “par for the course”, yet another ordinary judicial decision, I would argue that it is totally unacceptable whatever the circumstances.
Archbishop Shahan Svajian served the Armenian Church with dedication and distinction for more than 50 years.
As such, at the very least, the Turkish courts should have consulted Armenian Church representatives before allowing such a desecration.

Loussapatz The Dawn [loussapatz.g@gmail.com]

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