Head of the Armenian Patriarchate visits hometown Silvan in southeastern Turkey
DİYARBAKIR – Anadolu Agency
The acting head of the Armenian Patriarchate, Aram Ateşyan (R) gave a mass the Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakır. The ceremony was attended by Mayor Osman Baydemir (L). AA photoThe acting head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey Aram Ateşyan has visited his hometown Silvan in the southeastern Diyarbakır province on Sept. 11, a first since he was delegated the office following the withdrawal of Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan from his duties in 2008 due to illness.
Ateşyan expressed his joy at being able to make an official visit to his homeland, but deplored the destruction of Armenian cultural legacy in the area.
“I have returned happily to Silvan that I had left with sadness when I was five years old,” Ateşyan said, adding that he frequently visited the district where his sister is still living.
“Once upon a time, Turks and Armenians lived together in this land. Steps are being taken now to ensure that we can live all together once again. We have come to consolidate love and brotherhood,” Ateşyan said.
Ateşyan stressed the richness of the historic cultural heritage in the region.
“There were eight Armenian churches in the Silvan region alone, but most have now been destroyed. The historical monuments should be taken under protection and the consciousness of protecting history should be developed. The historical buildings and monuments in Silvan should be promoted to the whole world,” he said.
Mass at Surp Giragos Church
Ateşyan also paid a visit to the Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakır, where he conducted a mass attended by Mayor Osman Baydemir and the famous writer of Armenian origin, Mıgırdıç Margosyan.
The church was restored on Baydemir’s initiative and reopened in 2011. Ateşyan thanked the city officials and the Armenian community from Diyarbakır for showing interest in reviving the Armenian traditions.
On Sept. 8, Ateşyan had performed the first baptism in 98 years at Akdamar Church (Akhtamar in Armenian) on Lake Van.
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.
Eastern and southeastern Turkey was inhabited by a large Armenian community before the mass massacres and deportations in 1915.