ETCHMIADZIN, Armenia—Official Etchmiadzin announced Saturday that it will not take part in the Mass scheduled to take place on Sept. 19 at Akhtamar because Turkish authorities have declined to place a cross on top of the Holy Cross Church.
“The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin learned with regret and disappointment that the placing of the cross on top of the dome of the Church of the Holy Cross at Akhtamar is being postponed by the Turkish authorities without cause. The Mother See had been assured that the consecrated cross would be permanently placed on the dome of the church one week prior to the celebration of Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Holy Cross, scheduled for Sun., Sept. 19,” said the official Etchmiadzin announcement.
“Taking into account the breach of the assurances provided regarding the placement of the cross, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin—which was prepared to satisfy the request of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople to send two representatives to participate in the Divine Liturgy—is suspending the participation of her representatives in the celebration of the Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Cross at Akhtamar on Sept. 19,” concluded the announcement.
Last week, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia also announced that it would not send representatives to the Akhtamar Mass.
Upon the Etchmiadzin announcement Saturday, Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, Director of Ecumenical and Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s Holy Synod told Armenian-American publisher and Asbarez columnist Harout Sassounian that he would not participate in the Akhtamar events.
Earlier in August, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party spoke out against Armenian participation in the Mass. The party’s spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, denounced the Turkish government’s decision to reopen it for a one-day religious ceremony on Sept. 19 as a publicity stunt and “provocation” aimed at misleading the international community. “Once again, instead of taking a serious step, the Turks are staging an imitation show,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I don’t think you can achieve tolerance and solidarity of civilizations in that way.”
In turn, Armenian Revolutionary Federation political affairs director Giro Manoyan had urged Armenians to boycott the Mass. “I think it would be wrong to go there on a day set by Turkey and especially in these conditions of blockade… I don’t want to blame believers willing to go there but they must know that they somewhat contribute to the Turkish provocation,” said Manoyan.