Arch. Choloyan Urges Return of Confiscated Churches

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) speaking with Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan in the moments prior to offering the Senate opening prayer, pictured here with Holy Cross parish priest, Rev. Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian and ANCA Eastern Region Board Member Steve Mesrobian.

The Eastern US Prelate offers Senate opening prayer; completes day of meetings with Senate and House Members

WASHINGTON—Eastern US Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan called on Members of Congress to urge Turkey to return confiscated Christian churches and end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial, during a full day Capitol Hill meetings, last week, which began with the offering of the opening prayer at the U.S. Senate and ended with an invocation at the annual Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Observance, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The Archbishop’s opening prayer at the Senate was held on April 25, at the request of Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed (D) and at the invitation of the Senate Chaplain. “We thank you in the name of the Armenian people for your divine mercy in providing them a safe refuge in this blessed country, the United States of America, where they were delivered from the depths of despair of genocide and welcomed with new life,” said His Eminence.  “Reveal your infinite spirit to the members of this Senate that they may be inspired toward a greatness of purpose and ennobled in their quest for good governance.”

Watch Archbishop Choloyan’s Senate prayer.

Archbishop Choloyan thanked Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), has spearheaded the “Return of Churches” resolution in the Senate.

Sen. Reed welcomed Archbishop Choloyan in a moving Senate floor statement, which commemorated the Armenian Genocide and called for U.S. affirmation of that crime.  “This year I once again join my colleagues in encouraging the United States to officially recognize the Armenian genocide,” explained Senator Reed.  “Denial of this history is not consistent with our country’s sensitivity to human rights and our dedication to the highest and noblest principles that should govern the world. We must continue to educate our young people against this type of hatred and oppression so we can seek to prevent such crimes against humanity in the future. It was indeed an honor to be here to listen to the wise words of the Archbishop, to hear his prayer, his reflection, and to go forth knowing that he is a powerful force in our country for tolerance and decency,” concluded Sen. Reed.

Later in the day, Sen. Reed tweeted about his meeting with the Archbishop, stating, “Proud to host His Eminence Archbishop Choloyan today for prayer observing anniversary of Armenian Genocide.”

Watch Sen. Reed’s floor statement.

Welcoming remarks were also offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who recounted a visit to a church during his first trip to Armenia, in the early 1990’s after “that very brutal winter when the Turks had cut off the oil to Armenia.”  He noted, “I have fond memories of my visit to Armenia. I understand the resiliency of the people of Armenia, and I remember visiting that church.”

Watch Senate Majority Leader Reid’s floor statement.

Archbishop Choloyan discussing the “Return of Churches” resolution and U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide with Senate Foreign Relations Committee senior member Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Throughout the day, Archbishop Choloyan met with a bipartisan group of legislators, including: Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Al Franken (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), as well as, Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Bob Turner (R-NY).  Archbishop Choloyan was joined in his Congressional visits by Rev. Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian, Pastor of the Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church in Bethesda, MD; ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, ANCA Eastern Region Board Member Stephen Mesrobian, ANC Rhode Island Chairman Steve Elmasian, as well as ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian, and ANCA Capital Gateway Fellow Kyle Movsessian.

In the evening, Archbishop Choloyan joined more than 300 Armenian Americans from across the U.S. at the annual Congressional Observance of the Armenian Genocide, organized by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, in conjunction with Armenian American groups as well as the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia and Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the U.S.  In his invocation, His Eminence Oshagan Choloyan noted that, “Today, once again we gather in this historic room in our nation’s capital to honor the memory of our one-and-one-half million martyrs whose faith and love in you never faltered, even unto death. The first genocide of the 20th century was a prelude to more genocide. The tragedy of genocide continued because the Ottoman Turkish perpetrators of the Armenian genocide were neither confronted nor punished.”

Take a pictorial tour of Archbishop Choloyan’s efforts in support of U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and legislation calling on Turkey to return confiscated Christian Churches through pictures by visiting the ANCA Facebook page.

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