VAN (Anadolu Agency)—Armenians from Turkey and around the world have descended on Akhtamar Island on Lake Van for an annual Divine Liturgy on the island’s 10th-century church, which was reopened to occasional prayer in 2010 after being closed for almost 100 years.
Turkish authorities restored the church between 2005 and 2007 before opening it as a museum. Divine Liturgy was celebrated there for the first time in 95 years in 2010. This year, a baptism took place during the service in the historical church.
The Divine Liturgy began at 11 a.m. at the historic Surp Khatch (Holy Cross) Church. The ceremony was conducted by the Archbishop of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey, Aram Ateshian.
“During our religious service, we will pray for our country’s peace, unity and solidarity. There were no empty seats at the service four years ago, but as time passed, the number of attendees decreased. Nearly a thousand people have participated this year, unlike previous years’ thousands. For the first time in 100 years, we will have a baptism inside the church. I would like to take this occasion to thank our governor, the security forces and the mayor,” Ateshian said before the ceremony.
Worshippers prayed for peace in the Middle East and in the world during the service.
Some 800 security forces stood on guard during the ceremony. Police took tight security measures on and around the island, while conducting a bomb search with sniffer dogs and police divers.