First mass in two decades held in church with no congregation

First mass in two decades held in church with no congregation

First mass in two decades held in church with no congregation

A religious ceremony was held in a 372-year-old Armenian church, that had no congregation for a long time, a first in two decades, in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Derik district.

The mass in Surp Kevork Armenian Church was officiated by the 85th Turkish Armenian Patriarch Sahak Maşalyan on May 9.

As the church has had no congregation for two decades, Armenian families from Istanbul, the capital Ankara, the western province of İzmir, the southern province of Hatay and the southeastern province of Diyarmakır came to Derik to attend the mass.

“For many reasons, the Armenians had to migrate and the church was abandoned,” said Maşalyan in his vote of thanks to local officials who kept the structure safe.

The church, built in 1650, was delivered to the state treasury in 1915. In 1957, the Armenian congregation in the region bought the church from the state and registered it in the name of a Turkish-Armenian citizen.

After his death, the successors could not take care of the church. Closing after the latest maintenance in 2004, the church was reopened some eight years ago by Zekeriya Sabuncu, a Turkish-Armenian who moved to Derik from Istanbul voluntarily to look after it.

However, the church had never witnessed any congregation or a mass in nearly two decades.

“I am so happy,” Sabuncu said. “There was no ceremony in the last two decades. This mass will be a very good memory for Derik.”

He guessed that the May 9’s mass would not be the last. “Our patriarch said that he will visit the church every year.”

Ekrem Erol, the local head of the Kale neighborhood where the church is located, is also expecting to see more Armenians in the region.

“We, locals of Derik, love them and see no differences. We are happy to host our Armenian guests and hope that they come every year,” Erol noted.

Turkey, Diyarbakir,