Turks Prohibit Church Services for Armenian Tourists in Kars

ISTANBUL (Marmara)–A group of Armenian tourists visiting Kars wanted to conduct a religious service at the Holy Apostles Church there, but the region’s religious leader Ilias Serenli rejected their request, Turkish media reported Tuesday.

Serenli said the tourists could visit the church but Christian ceremonies were prohibited since the church was converted into a mosque.

"Just like we don’t perform religious ceremonies in their churches, they can’t perform services in the Kars Mosque," said Serenli.

In reporting the news, the Milliyet newspaper sidebared the piece with a historical perspective delineating the number of times the church has been converted to a mosque, a museum or back to a church. Currently, the newspaper reported, it is one of many mosques in Kars.

"Although there are five mosques in Kars, this one holds a special significance," said Serenli.

The newspaper reported that the Holy Apostles Church was constructed between 932 and 937 AD under the Pakradouni Dynasty. In 1597, when the Ottoman Turks seized Kars, they converted the church to a mosque and called it "Kumpet." Almost 300 years later, the Russia’s took control of Kars and converted it back to a church. In 1917, it was changed into a mosque, only to be converted back to a church in 1918 and in 1920 in reverted back to a mosque. In 1964, the church was converted to a museum, but was abandoned when the museum relocated in 1978 and left the building abandoned, until 1993, when the religious council converted it to a mosque.

The newspaper said that many in Kars do not pray in this now-converted mosque, saying that a Muslim can’t pray in a church.

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