ANTELIAS, Lebanon—The attorney representing the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia on Tuesday officially filed a lawsuit in the Turkish Constitutional Court to regain ownership of the historic headquarters of the Church, which includes the Catholicosate, the monastery and cathedral of St. Sophia, a major Armenian Christian holy site located in the Sis (currently Kozan), in south-central Turkey.
This site was confiscated by the Turkish Government following the Genocide of 1915 in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed or deported by the Ottoman Empire.
Convinced that recognition of the Genocide and compensation should go together, His Holiness Aram I, on the year of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, has filed the lawsuit at the Turkish, thus setting a precedent for the descendants of the martyrs to reclaim their family belongings.
On Wednesday, April 29th, Armenian Church leaders will host a press conference at the National Press Club to discuss the launch of the legal action. Another press conference is scheduled to be held in Geneva in the coming weeks.
Participating in the press conference will be Eastern Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan; Payam Akhavan, former UN prosecutor at The Hague and lead international counsel in this case; Cem Sofuogleu, Turkish human rights lawyer and local counsel in this case; Teny Pirri-Simonian, Senior Advisor to the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia; and Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
“The restoration of the Catholicosate would represent an act of justice, a first step toward the legal return of the Armenian Church and its faithful to their lawful place in their rightful homeland, and a meaningful milestone in the Armenian nation’s journey toward a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
Since 2012, Aram I has presided over a committee of Turkish and international human rights lawyers, preparing the current litigation. The committee will explain the lawsuit through two press conferences.
The Catholicosate of Cilicia settled in Sis, the former capital of the Cilician Kindgom, in1295, after moving from several places due to the political uncertainties in the region. In 1921, following the 1915 Genocide, the Ottoman authorities ordered Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan and the clergy to vacate the location within two days. The Catholicos and the clergy left the monastery in Sis, taking with them very few objects, such as the basin pot for the preparation of holy chrism (muron), some manuscripts and liturgical items. After moving between Jerusalem, Aleppo, Damascus and Cyprus, in 1930 the Catholicosate settled in Antelias.