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Armenia Watches Turkey’s Holy Cross Mass with Frustration, Rage

A worshiper lights candles outside the church during the service on Akdamar island. (Photo: Yigal Schleifer)

A mass was held for the first time in 95 years at the 10th-century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross in eastern Turkey, but in neighboring Armenia, the event elicited little excitement.

Many Armenians claimed that the lack of a cross atop Holy Cross’s dome diluted the significance of the mass. Members of the government and representatives of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, did not attend the ceremony after local Turkish government authorities asserted that the proposed cross was “too heavy” to place atop the church. Restored by the Turkish government, the church had been functioning as a museum since 2007.

Amid the row over the cross, Armenian travel agencies dropped flight offers for the service on Lake Van’s Akhtamar Island (called Akdamar Island in Turkey). Armenian media outlets also discouraged consumers from making the pilgrimage to the church, known as Surb Khach in Amenian. [For details, see the EurasiaNet.org archive].

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Armenia Watches Turkey’s Holy Cross Mass with Frustration, Rage

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