Patriarch Rationalizes Holy Cross Debacle

Istanbul Patriarcate Archbishop Ateshyan

ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)—Delays in installing a cross atop Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar Island, ahead of a planned Mass on Sept. 19 was blamed on the upcoming constitutional referendum in Turkey, according to Vicar of the Istanbul Patriarchate, Archbishop Aram Ateshyan who discussed the matter with a German publication.

Ateshyan told the Deutche Welle that the Turkish-Armenian community’s enthusiasm for the upcoming Mass at Holy Cross was shattered after news that a cross would not be installed atop the renovated 10th-century Armenian church, rationalizing that a cross would be installed after the scheduled services.

“The Van Governor promised the Armenian community that the cross would without fail be installed after the liturgy. We expected 5,000 people to take part in the liturgy, but the present situation has reduced the number – some people refused to participate. The Holy Sees of Echmiadzin and Cilicia refused to participate in the services,” Ateshyan told the German news organization.

The Mass, which the Turkish government has spearheaded as an effort to show the world its brand of tolerance for minorities, has been mired in controversy as Armenian political and religious forces have boycotted the event.

Citing the Turkish government’s decision to not erect a cross atop the church, the Holy See of Etchimiadzin Saturday reversed an earlier decision to send a high-level delegation to the service. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem also announced that it would not participate in the service, in light of Etchmiadzin’s recent posturing.

However, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia last week announced that it would not participate in the services, citing the blatant attempt by the Turkish government to capitalize on this religious matter and bolster its standing in the international community.

Calls to boycott the event have been heard from varied political circles in Armenia, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the ruling Republican Party.

The recent wave of boycotts, however, did not deter the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul to push ahead with its plans to hold the Mass.

At an assembly convened in Istanbul, the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul confirmed Monday that the service will be held as planned, despite the fact that a cross may not grace the church’s dome, as had been initially promised.

“The [patriarchate’s] spiritual assembly decided that the organization [of the service] will be held as initially planned, without undergoing any changes,” the patriarchate said in a written statement Monday after the assembly was gathered under Ateshyan’s chairmanship, according to the Anatolia news agency and as reported by Hurriyet.

Thirty nongovernmental organizations criticized the controversy regarding the “cross issue” in a joint statement, according to a report Tuesday by daily Radikal.

After reopening the Holy Cross church in 2007 as a museum following an extensive renovation effort, the Turkish government said it would allow Armenians to hold a Mass in their own church once a year.


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  1. Christo said:

    Someone should remind this self appointed co patriarch where a question he raised a few weeks ago in regards to over 2000 churches in asia minor. Your loyalty is to RoT or the Armenian nation and church that you claim to represent?

  2. Arto T. said:

    His loyalty is to the Armenian community of Turkey and its survival. If there wasn’t an active Armenian community in Istanbul there would not be one Church left nor anything to claim. There are more Armenian Churches today in Istanbul than California or Lebanon. They even have an Armenian Hospital in Istanbul. Even Glendale can’t claim that. You should take the time to learn something.

  3. Boghos said:

    This church cross thing is turning into a big yawn.
    Look. if we Armenians want a cross on top, bring a small one and have it placed on top instead of the 200 pound one that Turkey were going to put on but won’t, for some reason.

    The issue is not the cross nor should it be. No Armenian should be taking part in this Turkish farce anyhow. The only thing keeping Etchmiadzin away is a cross? This is craziness. Honestly, I think that it was looking for an excuse to appear to be a big, brave, anti-Turkish hero. Well, you know what? I don’t consider Etchmiadzin to be a hero these days. I consider it to be clueless and corrupt, just like the Armenian government.

  4. Grish Begian said:

    I wonder why a cross, which is symbol of a Christian Church, has to do with Turkish politics!!

  5. Berj said:

    Glad that The Holy Sees of Echmiadzin and The Patriarchate of Jerusalem followed the path of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in boycotting this obvious charade. We only hope that the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul will not succumb to the intimidation and pressure by the oppressive Turkish state, At all cost, Armenians must show a unified stand to this obvious Turkish scheme.

  6. Vacheh said:

    If the Patriarch of Armenian is a serious leader, he should first perform a “Hokehangist” for all the victimized Armenian residents of province of Van who were slaughtered by “Hayoutyan Dahij” Djevdet Pasha in 1915. This historical criminal and murderer, after being defeated by Russian army in northwestern Iran and during his retreat to Van, he stopped in every Armenian village and with the excuse of searching for hidden weapons, he dragged the men out of their houses and shot them in blank range in front of their wives and children. After being defeated by Aram Manookian in Van, he retreated further to the cities of Musch and Bitlis and emptied his anger on the Armenian residents of those cities and slaugthered all of them mercilessly.

    Does this so called Patriarch know anything about our history and sufferings that Armenians endured in those days-

  7. Ed said:

    Once again Armenians are being fooled and defrauded by Turkish promises. Boycott the Turkish window dressing and refuse to attend this “show”.

  8. Nairian said:

    I hear you Vacheh jan, unfortunately many of our young Armenian brothers and sisters in our homeland; because of the soviet regime do not know much about our history nor about our nations’ sufferings. However, it is double “amot” for a Patriarch of Armenians not to know nor sympathize with our sad history and how our poor 2 Million martyrs died mercilessly in the hands of the atrocious and the barbaric Ittihadists and the government of Turkey from 1915 thru 1923. I understand that he lives in Turkey and therefore he is also afraid of his life and the lives of his people; but just as you said, he should at the very least perform a “Hokehankist” for the victimized Armenian civilians in and around Van area. That is a must on his behalf for a man of the cloth.

  9. MihranK said:

    Sadly, this self appointed Patriarch with the tacit help of the Turkish state is in the pocket of the fascist state.
    He should be ashamed of himself as the martyrs of our nation means nothing to him apart from his seat.
    We should all ignore this outcast.

  10. Nairian said:

    However personally, I totally agree with both Etchmiadzin and Cilicia not to go and further bolster the Turkish government for them to look good in the eyes of the EU when more than 30,000 of our sacred Churches and Monasteries since 1915 has been left in an extremely deplorable situation and has even turned to barns.

  11. Shant said:

    The Patriarch should be be compelled to rationalize his complicity in making a mockery of our Church by even considering to attend this PR stunt. There’s no excuse for graciously accepting insult to murder. Shame on those few Armenians who attend this hoax with or without a cross.