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Armenians Attend Historic Mass at Church in Turkey

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Holy Cross Church sits on Akdamar island on Lake Van in eastern Turkey.

For the first time in 95 years, Turkey allows Christian worshipers, including many Armenians from abroad, to attend a historic mass at the 1,089-year-old church on Lake Van’s Akdamar Island in eastern Turkey. Closed since 1915, Holy Cross Church was restored by the Turkish authorities between 2005 and 2007 and reopened as a museum.

Archbishop Aram Atesian of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul led the two-hour mass. With room for only some 50 congregants inside the church, the mass was broadcast outside on a large television screen as several thousand people visited the island throughout the day. Several priests came outside at one point to offer the gathered faithful communion.

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Yigal Schleifer is a freelance reporter and photojournalist based in Istanbul.

Armenians Attend Historic Mass at Church in Turkey

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