Hundreds of parishioners flocked to Akhtamar Church on Sunday to attend Sunday Mass, which had not taken place at the historic church for three years when the Turkish government suspended all religious activity there.
The Mass was led by Vicar-General of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul, Archbishop Aram Ateshian.
Among the attendees were also Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies Osman Nuri Gülaçar, İrfan Kartal, Abdulahat Arvas, Van Governor Murat Zorluoğlu and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu.
“We continue to respect, support, and protect Armenians’ religious freedoms and life cultures. This will continue to be the case. As you know, we had suspended masses for the last three years due to security concerns. This year, since a secure environment has been ensured, we have again given the go-ahead for mass and we are very happy for this. Our hope is that masses continue uninterrupted at Akdamar Church from now on,” Ersoy said following the ceremony.
The Akhtamar church was built between 915 A.D. and 921 A.D. by architect Bishop Manuel, under the supervision of Armenian King Gagik I Artsruni.
Following a restoration period between 2005 and 2007, the church was opened as a monument museum in 2007 and in 2010, an annual mass was held for the first time in 95 years.
The church hosted annual international religious ceremonies organized by the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul between the period from 2010-2014, but since then, the masses were suspended until this year based on security concerns.