Armenian church on Akdamar Island hosts first baptism in 98 years
VAN – Anadolu Agency
AA PhotoArmenians from Turkey and around the world have descended on Akdamar (Akhtamar in Armenian) Island on Lake Van for an annual Divine Liturgy on the island’s 10th-century church, which was reopened to occasional prayer in 2010 after a hiatus of close to 100 years.
Turkish authorities restored the church between 2005 and 2007 before opening it as a museum. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated there for the first time in 95 years in 2010. This year, a baptism took place during the service in the historical church.
The Divine Liturgy began at 11 a.m. at the historic Surp Haç (Holy Cross) Church. The ceremony was conducted by the acting head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey, Aram Ateşyan.
“During our religious service, we will pray for our country’s peace, unity and solidarity. There was no empty seats at the service four years ago, but as time passed, the number of attendees decreased. Nearly a thousand people have participated this year, unlike previous years’ thousands. For the first time in 100 years, we will have a baptism inside the church. I would like to take this occasion to thank our governor, the security forces and the mayor,” Ateşyan said.
Worshippers prayed for peace in the Middle East and in the world during the service.
Some 800 security forces stood on guard during the ceremony. Police took tight security measures on and around the island, while conducting a bomb search with sniffer dogs and police divers.
Today the Armenian community in Turkey, which numbers around 70,000, is concentrated in Istanbul.
Neighbors Turkey and Armenia do not have diplomatic relations and a move toward reconciliation launched in 2009 has not borne fruit.