Armenian Apostolic Church canonizes victims of Armenian Genocide

(Photo: REUTERS / Vincent Kessler)Photo: REUTERS / Vincent Kessler Armenian protesters demonstrate near the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, January 28, 2015. The European Court of Human Rights holds a hearing on Wednesday on the case of Dogu Perincek, Chairman of the Turkish Workers Party, against Switzerland. Perincek was found guilty of racial discrimination by a Swiss Police Court for having publicly denied the characterisation of genocide, without calling into question the existence of massacres and deportations of Armenians in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire, during various conferences in Switzerland in 2005. Perincek claims that the Swiss courts breached his freedom of expression.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is set to canonize the victims of the Armenian Genocide as the country prepares to mark the centenary of the horrific incident which saw over a million people killed.

The church, which follows Eastern Orthodox  traditions, will hold a solemn liturgy at the Patriarchal See of the Catholicosate in Echmiadzin on April 23, a church official said at a press conference on February 3.

On the canonization, Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan said the process took nearly two years before church leaders decreed sainthood for the victims in the genocide.

In a statement, the head of the Patriarchal See of Echmiadzin explained the implication of the canonization on the victims of the genocide, which happened towards the end of World War I.

"The Armenian Church does not sanctify. It recognizes the sanctity of saints or of those people that is already common among people or has been shown with evidence," said Catholicos Karekin in a statement to the Roman Catholic news agency Fides.

"The Church recognizes only what happened, that is, the Genocide."

Discussions on bestowing the honor on the genocide victims began in September 2013 at a meeting in Echmiadzin. the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in the city of Vagharshapat, Armenia.

The gathering was a milestone in the church, bringing together all Armenian Apostolic bishops from the Patriarchal See of Echmiadzin, based in Armenia and headed by Catholicos Karekin II, and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, based in Lebanon and led by Catholicos Aram I.

During the liturgy, the church will read "Martyrs of April," a psalm composed by the late Bishop Zareh Aznavourian, which will be used for the canonization rite, according to Galstanyan.

The bishop added that invitations to heads of sister oriental churches and other churches have been sent.

The genocide had been carried out by the Ottoman government, which targeted minority Armenians who lived in their historic homeland at a territory now part of present-day Turkey. At least 1.5 million Armenians died in the systematic execution, also called as the Armenian Holocaust.

(Photo: Wikipedia)Armenians marched by Ottoman soldiers.

Turkey denies the word genocide is an accurate term for the mass killings of Armenians that began under Ottoman rule in 1915.

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