Turkey considers placing cross on Akhtamar Church

Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed, the Culture and Tourism Ministry has solicited the views of the Foreign Ministry on the appropriateness of installing a cross on the steeple of Akhtamar Church.

Turkey considers placing cross on Akhtamar Church

Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman yesterday confirmedearlier news reports that the Culture and Tourism Ministry has solicited theviews of the Foreign Ministry on the appropriateness of installing a cross onthe steeple of Akhtamar Church, which will be reopened today as a museum in aceremony with the attendance of a delegation from Armenia as well asrepresentatives of the Armenian diaspora from around the world.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman yesterday confirmed earlier newsreports that the Culture and Tourism Ministry has solicited the views of theForeign Ministry on the appropriateness of installing a cross on the steeple ofAkhtamar Church, which will be reopened today as a museum in a ceremony withthe attendance of a delegation from Armenia as well as representatives of theArmenian diaspora from around the world.

Earlier this month, Patriarch Mesrob II, the spiritual leader of theArmenian Orthodox community in Turkey,sent a written request to the Culture and Tourism Ministry asking that a cross,prepared by the Armenian Patriarchate itself, be placed on the steeple of Akhtamar Church. The sentiments in the letterfrom Patriarch Mesrob were echoed in a similar letter sent by a group ofArmenian intellectuals and artists to the ministry.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry asked for the Foreign Ministry's input onthe issue a few days ago, Bilman said in response to a question at a weeklypress briefing. Nevertheless, he noted that the request was not particularlyrelated to today's ceremony. "Our ministry is still studying the issuebefore offering our viewpoint. As you know, the restoration of historical buildingsis a long-term process," Bilman said. "By its very nature, the issuewill be evaluated in detail and then the Culture and Tourism Ministry will benotified of our opinion."

Akhtamar Church has undergone a restoration thatwas undertaken at the behest of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan and Cultureand Tourism Minister Atilla Koç. While the Culture and Tourism Ministry intendsfor the 1,100-year-old church on Lake Van's Akhtamar Islandto be opened to the public as a "museum," the Armenian community ispressing for the church to be available for religious services. On the subjectof the placement of the metal cross atop the church, Patriarch Mesrobreferenced past photographs of the historic church as the reason why theministry should allow the cross to be placed there.

Earlier this week, the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II,refused to attend the reopening ceremony because the church will operate as amuseum, not as a church. Also yesterday, both Mesrob and a delegation fromArmenia -- with whom Turkey has no diplomatic relations -- traveled to theeastern Anatolian city of Van for today's ceremony. The Armenian delegation wasled by Deputy Acting Minister of Culture Gagik Gyurjian. Meanwhile, Bilman alsosaid that representatives of the Armenian diaspora from Australia, France,Germany, Lebanon, Slovakiaand the United Stateswould participate in the ceremony.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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