CRESCENTA VALLEY, Calif.,–Harut Sassounian, the publisher of California Courier Newspaper, will discuss the growing controversy around the Akhtamar Holy Cross Church at a special lecture on Sunday, September 19, at the Armenian Apostolic Church of Crescenta Valley.
The lecture and discussion, titled “Aktamar Holy Cross Church Divine Liturgy, Church Service or Political Show,” will take place on at 1:00 pm, following church services at Western Prelacy Hall, located at 6252 Honolulu Ave., in La Crescenta, California. The event is open to the public and admission and parking is free. Refreshments will be served.
A prominent public figure, analyst and a commentator, Harut Sassounian,who is well known in the Armenian world community for his long years of public service and involvement, has on many occasions commented on issues involving restoration and the upcoming liturgy at this medieval Armenian church.
Questions have been raised about the prudence of attending the Sept. 19 church services in Akhtamar to which the Turkish government has invited Armenians from around the world, members of the international media and foreign Ambassadors and dignitaries.
In his two articles:” Why Would Armenians Go to Akhtamar, and become Tools of Turkish Propaganda?” and “Exploiting Akhtamar Church Again”,which were published in Armenian Weekly and appeared in numerous websites worldwide, Sassounian has urged all Armenians to boycott this new propaganda ploy unless Turkish officials officially designate Holy Cross as a church, not museum, opening it for year-round worship services, rather than for one day only. He also has urged placing the church under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, not Ministry of Tourism, and allowing Divine Liturgy to be celebrated regularly, after Holy Cross is properly consecrated in accordance with Armenian religious rites.
Mass will be celebrated at the 10’th-century church of Surp Khach (Holy Cross) for the first time in nearly a century on September 19, three years after the church was renovated by the government of Turkey and converted to a museum by allowing Turkey’s Armenian Christian community to hold religious services there once a year.
Many argue that the restoration of the Akhtamar church was a political act, done for political reasons. Critics argue that the restoration was the result of political imperative rather than archaeological necessities. It may have been paid by Turkey, but it was largely instigated by pro-Turkish elements within the EU and elsewhere who wanted Turkey to make a highly visible gesture that would show to its critics that all is well within Turkey regarding its treatment of cultures.
Built between 915 and 921 A.D., the Akhtamar church is one of the few surviving examples of the ancient Armenian civilization in what is now eastern Turkey. Thousands of Armenian churches built there since the early middle Ages were destroyed, ransacked or turned into mosques during and after the 1915 Genocide of more than 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Sassounian is the president of the United Armenian Fund and Senior Vice President of Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation. He was a human rights delegate at the United Nations for 10 years and has played a leading role in recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the U.N. in 1985. From 1978 to1982, Sassounian worked as an international marketing executive for Procter & Gamble in Geneva, Switzerland. He has a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and an MBA from Pepperdine University. He is author of ” The Armenian Genocide: The World Speaks Out, Documents and Declarations, 1915-2005,” published in English and Arabic. Sassounian has been decorated by the President and Prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches and the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.