Calls to Boycott Akhtamar Mass Cross Party Lines

Holy Cross Church at Akhtamar

YEREVAN—Calls to boycott the scheduled mass at the Holy Cross Church at Akhtamar gained momentum and crossed party lines in Armenia and included a denouncement by the ruling Republican Party.

Armenian Revolutionary Federation Political Affairs Director Giro Manoyan urged Armenians to boycott the mass, scheduled for September 19 and to be officiated by Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, who currently leads the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

“I think it would be wrong to go there on a day set by Turkey and especially in these conditions of blockade and so on,” Manoyan told RFE/RL. “I don’t want to blame believers willing to go there but they must know that they somewhat contribute to the Turkish provocation,” he said.

Manoyan also expressed regret for the decision by His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians, to send two senior clerics to the Church of Surp Khach (Holy Cross) for the September 19 mass. “I’m not sure that’s the right step,” Manoyan told RFE/RL.

But a spokesman for Karekin II rejected calls for the boycott. “We believe that if we are given an opportunity to cherish a shrine that had functioned for centuries but is devoid of prayer today for some reasons, we must use even that single day in order to assert our rights and ownership to the shrine with our participation,” Father Vahram Melikian told RFE/RL.

Meanwhile, President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party on Tuesday spoke out against Armenian participation in the mass to be held in a 10th century Armenian church in southeastern Turkey next month.

The party spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, denounced the Turkish government’s decision to reopen it for a one-day religious ceremony on September 19 as a publicity stunt and “provocation” aimed at misleading the international community.

“Once again, instead of taking a serious step, the Turks are staging an imitation show,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I don’t think you can achieve tolerance and solidarity of civilizations in that way.”

The mass will take place three years after the completion of a $1.5 million renovation of the church funded by the Turkish government.

Ankara has promoted the upcoming ceremony as proof of its commitment to tolerance and a gesture of goodwill towards Armenians. Still, it has resisted calls to return the temple, perched on the legendary Akhtamar Island in Lake Van, to the Armenian Church.


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  1. manooshag said:

    Hye, another ‘in your face’ PLOY by the Turkish Ottoman mentality that prevails in their leaderships.
    Holy Cross Church at Aghtamar was ‘resurrected’ not as an Armenian church but as a Turkish museum belonging to the Turks… One day only, and no cross atop our holy edifice… Turks built our church to gain
    tourism for the Turks… too, thinking they are fooling the world by rebuilding an Armenian church – as though this church was a church again. Reality: today it only a Turkish museum – to benefit the Turks. Too, a Turkish PLOY – continuing Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation… via Aghtamar – 1890s-2010.

  2. Katia K. said:

    Van lake is occupied, Akhtamar island is occupied and Holy Cross temple is occupied. I don’t know what Turkey wants to accomplish by renovating our historic temple, but at the same time keeping it to itself illegally. The Turkish games and schemes are endless. They probably want to show to the world that they are so considerate and generous and we are so impolite and ungrateful. How can someone appreciate the renovation of his own property, when the renovater has decided that the property belongs to him and you as the historic owner can only see it on one specific day! They should at least pay for the travel expenses of all those Armenians who want to make the pilgrimage to the renovated temple that was taken from them by Genocide. The Armenians should not incur expenses to go back to a land from which they were kicked out in order to see a national monument that belonged to them and in so doing generate Touristic income to a country that violently wiped out their culture and took over their lands. The decent and generous thing to do would have been to renovate the temple and return it to the Armenian church where it belongs. It’s like saying: “Look at your baby, but don’t touch it”. The million dollar question that foreigners should ask is not “why aren’t more Armenians going?”, it should be “how is it that there is a thousand year old Armenian temple (built 915 AD) in the 90 year old Turkish Republic?”. Foreigners should also know that the lake of Van including Akhtamar island and Holy Cross Temple are included in the Wilsonian map of the Armenian lands rewarded back to the Armenians in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. The Turks not only ignored the Treaty of Sevres and went on to forge the illegitimate Kars Treaty with the Soviets, but they also vilify us by making us look as if we are asking for something that does not belong to us.

  3. manooshag said:

    Well, in languages, of all the civilized nations of the world, nations where all our Survivors fled, when these truths are exposed to the Christians religions there – of the latest violations of the Turks still ongoing against the Armenians and our religion (first to accept Christianity in 301 AD. Worse of all Turks efforts to rebuild our ancient Armenian Holy Cross Church – ONLY in order to become a Turkish museum – to advance tourism to Aghtamar… to benefit the Turks…
    Too, allowing Armenians ONLY one day each year to observe our Armenian religious rites, and as well, the Turk denials of our Armenian cross to appear atop our Holy Cross Church… Show up the savage mentality of the Turks against their victims of the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation – AND that none shall think that the ‘resurrection’ of Holy Cross Armenian Church was for the Armenians – but for Turk tourism to advance ONLY.
    These truths shall set our minds at peace, knowing the churchmen shall know, still, of the Turk mentality… and too, their ongoing denials of their Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation…. the ongoing repression of the Armenians living in Turkey, until today – Turks still seeking to ‘eliminate’ Armenians.
    Religions of the world shall speak of this to their congregations… and more. This, as a ground swell from across the world, from our mouths to those whose ears whom we address – and – to our God.