In a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit, a branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church is seeking the return of its ancient religious center in Kozan in southeast Turkey.
The Catholicosate of Cilicia, which dates back to 1293, is, along with the Armenian town of Etchmiadzin, one of the two centers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the world’s first national Christian institution. Turkey’s Ottoman rulers seized the Catholicosate’s property during the pogroms and mass deportations of ethnic Armenians that occurred during World War I – actions much of the world describes as genocide.
“It is the first case of its nature, the return of religious property to the original owners,” said Iştar Gözaydın, a legal consultant to the Catholicosate on the case and former professor of law at Istanbul’s Doğuş University. “We are arguing the Catholicosate has never been extinguished, so this is about the right of religious worship; not only in terms of property, but also in terms of practicing religious worship.”
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.