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Armenian Church officials to attend service in SE Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 8/12/2010 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has officially been invited to a historic service in Van by the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul. The See welcomed the invitation and will send two clerics for the service on Sept. 19. Bishop Sebouh Chouldjian, a patriarchal candidate in Istanbul, was not invited, however

The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Armenia-based spiritual and administrative headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has accepted an invitation from the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul to attend a special mass on Van’s Akdamar Island on Sept. 19.

The See will send at least two clerics to attend the service, in addition to the clerics who will attend along with Deputy Istanbul Patriarch and Archbishop Aram Ateşyan.

Speaking Thursday to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, Bishop Sebouh Chouldjian, primate of the Church’s Diocese of Gougark in northern Armenia, confirmed there would be attendance from Etchmiadzin.

Bishop Margos Srpazan and Father Gomidas will attend on behalf of the See, according to Chouldjian, who is one of the most likely candidates to be the next Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.

Chouldjian, however, said he could not understand why he was not invited despite being a patriarchal candidate.

“Etchmiadzin left the decision to me,” said Chouldjian, who can still attend if he chooses. “I will declare my decision to attend or not several days before the service, without expecting any protocol application from the Patriarchate if I do decide to attend on Sept. 19.”

Explaining why only two clerics were attending from the See, Chouldjian said it was “because Turkey’s decision to allow one service a year [on the island] is perceived as a political one.”

Chouldjian stood for the election of deputy Istanbul patriarch after Mesrop II became unable to fulfill his duties due to frontal dementia, forcing the Armenian Apostolic Church in Istanbul to begin discussing new leadership options.

Since the patriarch’s illness, the Patriarchate and the rival Initiating Committee have disagreed on how to fill left by Mesrop II becoming incapacitated.

Finally, the Interior Ministry intervened after the disagreement could not be overcome and stated that no election for the position of patriarch could be held while Mesrop II is alive.

In response, the Divine Council of the Patriarchate made a snap decision that was not announced publicly and assigned Ateşyan as deputy patriarch. The incident remains a point of debate.

[HH] Sarkisian’s party discouraging Armenian participation at Akdamar

Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty, or RFE-RL, reported on Thursday that Armenian President Serge Sarkisian's Republican Party, or HHK, spoke out against Armenian participation in the landmark service to be held Akdamar Island’s Surp Haç Church in the eastern province of Van.

HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov denounced the Turkish government's decision to reopen the church for a one-day religious ceremony on Sept. 19, calling it a publicity stunt and a "provocation" aimed at misleading the international community.

“Once again, instead of taking a serious step, the Turks are staging an imitation show,” Sharmazanov told Radio Free Europe. "I don't think you can achieve tolerance and solidarity of civilizations in that way."

Giro Manoyan from the opposition party Armenian Revolutionary Federation, or Dashnaktsutyun, also spoke to RFE-RL and called on Armenians to boycott the service.

"I don't want to blame believers willing to go there, but they must know that they somewhat contribute to the Turkish provocation," he said.

In the same story, Father Vahram Melikian, a spokesman for Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, said, "We believe that if we are given an opportunity to cherish a shrine that had functioned for centuries but is devoid of prayer today for some reason, we must use even that single day in order to assert our rights and ownership of the shrine with our participation."

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