ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)—Local Turkish ship builders have confirmed on Wednesday that Turkey plans on constructing special boats for an Armenian religious mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar Island in the eastern Van province, to take place on September 19.
Boat owners in Van are not only working to increase the security and comfort of passengers they will carry to the island for the religious mass, which is the first of its kind since the Armenian Genocide, but are also constructing new boats according to European Union (EU) standards.
“I have almost constructed two boats, and I have been asked to construct another,” local ship builder Suat Belek said.
Belek said there would be a lavatory, kitchen and a lounge on the boats.
It takes more than two months to construct a boat, which costs around $42,000.
Also, the head of the Akhtamar Island Motorized Vehicle Cooperative said almost 40 boats would be allocated for the religious ceremony.
Moreover, Van’s Governor Munir Karaloglu told reporters about preparations for the religious mass, and said that the patriarch of Armenians in Turkey would conduct the religious mass.
The governor said local executives would do everything in their power to host people who came for the religious mass in the best way.
The 1,100-year-old Akhtamar Church was opened in 2007 at a ceremony that hosted officials from Armenia and Turkey following a controversial two-year long restoration process by the Turkish government. The restoration cost some $1.7 million.
The Akhtamar Church was constructed by architect bishop Manuel between 915 and 921 A.D. under the supervision of King Gagik I. Among the important pieces of Armenian architecture, the church draws attraction with its stone workmanship and the relief on its walls.
Earlier this year, Turkey gave permission for an annual religious rite that would take place every year at the church in the second week of September, upon proposal by the Van Governor’s Office and approval by Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Gunay.