Annual Pilgrimage and Mass at Akhtamar Postponed

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VAN, Turkey—The annual pilgrimage and Mass at the Holy Cross Armenian Church on Van’s Akhtamar Island—originally scheduled for Sept. 3—has been postponed indefinitely, due to security concerns, reported Agos.

The Holy Cross Armenian Church on Van’s Akhtamar Island

The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople said in a statement that the pilgrimage, which began in 2010, will not take place this year. “Considering the rise of terrorist attacks and deaths in the region in recent days…the Patriarchate has decided to postpone the pilgrimage to a later date,” read the statement.

The Holy Cross Church underwent a controversial restoration between May 2005 and October 2006, with a stated budget of 2 million Turkish lira (approx. 1.4 million USD), financed by Turkey’s Ministry of Culture. The church officially reopened as a museum in March 2007 in a ceremony attended by the Turkish Minister of Culture, government officials, Patriarch Mesrob II, a delegation from Armenia, and a group of journalists from news organizations around the world.

Several Armenian religious leaders who were invited to the opening ceremony decided to boycott the event, protesting the fact that it was being reopened as a secular museum rather than a church.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern U.S. Central Committee and the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party Eastern District USA issued a joint statement calling the reopening “an occasion not for celebration, but for consternation” and welcome the decision to boycott the “travesty.” There was also controversy over the Turkish government’s decision not to place a cross atop the church; there hasn’t been a cross on the Holy Cross Armenian Church since 1915.

The first Mass at the church was allowed to be held on Sept. 19, 2010. Despite the lack of official numbers from that day, Turkish newspapers estimated the presence of up to 5,000 people. Thousands of pilgrims from Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora were expected to attend the ceremony this year, as it is the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

The post Annual Pilgrimage and Mass at Akhtamar Postponed appeared first on Armenian Weekly.

Source: Armenian Weekly
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