ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)—A religious service scheduled to be held at the Holy Cross Armenian church in Akhtamar on Lake Van on Sept. 12 has been postponed until Sept. 19, as the originally scheduled date coincides with a referendum on Parliament’s constitutional amendment package, reported Today’s Zaman.
The Armenian-language Marmara newspaper also reported that the Turkish Cultural Ministry has decided that the church will get a cross, which was removed following a renovation effort, after which it was decided that the 10th century church would be converted into a museum.
According to a statement issued by the Van Governor’s Office, the governor Munir Karaoglu called the Armenian Patriarchate religious council president Archbishop Aram Ateshian to offer to change the date of the religious service at the church to Sept. 19.
Noting that the Armenian community reacted positively to the suggestion, the statement read, “Recalling that the referendum will take place on Sept. 12 and the votes of Turkish-Armenian citizens would be jeopardized [in the event the service was held on the scheduled date], Karaoglu conveyed his suggestion that the service to be held the following week, on Sept. 19. While noting that re-scheduling the service would not cause any problems, Ateshian said Sept. 19 would be suitable for them.”
Turkey’s culture minister Ertugrul Gunay told the local Atlas newspaper that the commission on historic monuments has reversed its earlier decision and will allow a cross to be erected on top of the Holy Cross Church, reported Marmara.
In 2007, when the renovation project concluded, the Armenian Patriarchate appealed to the state commission on historic monuments to include a cross and a bell in the belfry, but the request was denied.
The commission decided that a cross would be erected on the church on the day of a planned pilgrimage to the site.
Last week Turkey’s State Minister Mehemt Aydin announced that some 5,000 people will converge on Akhtamar for the now Sept. 19 pilgrimage and religious service.