Van church holds first mass in 95 years
Mass was held at a historical Armenian church in the eastern Van province on Sunday for the first time in 95 years. The church located on Akdamar Island in Lake Van was opened to worshippers for a single day. Sunday's ritual, directed by Archbishop Aram Atesyan of Turkey's Armenian Patriarchate, lasted for two hours. Around 3,500 people came to the island for the service, according to officials. Speaking at the gathering, Atesyan said the patriarchate places great importance on preserving the church for future generations. "This church, which is a precious piece of art, is a cultural monument that belongs to all of humanity," he said. "On this occasion, we would like to express our thanks to the state and government of the Republic of Turkey for restoring and protecting this building." Akdamar Island in Lake Van is famous for its Armenian church, designed by Bishop Manuel in 915-921 AD under the supervision of King Gagik I. Turkey restored the church from 2005 to 2007 and then opened it as a museum. Under a proposal by the Van Governor's Office approved by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, from now on Akdamar Church will host a religious service once a year.