Restored 16th-century Armenian church reopens in Diyarbakır

A 16th-century Armenian church in Turkey’s southeast Diyarbakır province, heavily damaged by PKK terrorists in 2015, officially reopened on Saturday after extensive government-funded restoration.

Stressing that everyone “shares the excitement” of the renovated Surp Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakır, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said during the opening ceremony that services will start on Sunday May 8 “and that this structure, which has been the target of terrorism, will be reopened for worship.”

The historical church in Sur district of Diyarbakır was damaged by the PKK terrorist attacks in 2015 and restored with funds provided by the Ministry of Environment, Town Planning and Climate Change under the coordination of the General Directorate of Turkish foundations.

Officials hold a service during a ceremony for the reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, Turkey, May 7, 2022. (AA Photo)

Diverse cultures and faiths live together in peace and pray freely in Diyarbakır, which is home to many priceless structures, Ersoy said, including the Armenian Surp Giragos and Chaldean Mar Petyun churches.

“Unfortunately, these two structures, which are among the important treasures of our cultural heritage, have been targeted and destroyed by terrorist groups who wanted to cast a shadow over the peace and tranquility of the city in recent years,” he said. he explains.

“We believe that places of worship throughout Anatolia are signs of respect and brotherhood between us.”

Officials hold a service during a ceremony for the reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, Turkey, May 7, 2022. (AA Photo)

Officials hold a service during a ceremony for the reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, Turkey, May 7, 2022. (AA Photo)

Symbol of good relations between Armenians, Turks, Kurds

The church, the largest Armenian Gregorian church in the Middle East, is known not only to citizens of the city but also to the whole world, Ersoy said, adding that the restoration of the Armenian churches Surp Giragos and Mar Petyun Chaldean cost around 32 million TL ($2.14 million). )

Sahak Mashalian, the Patriarch of Turkish Armenians, called the opening of the church a lifeline for Diyarbakır’s declining Christian population.

“It contains an important and significant message of friendship for the Armenian world in terms of the development of Turkish-Armenian relations,” he said.

“There are so many bright and positive events and experiences to highlight in the millenary Turkish-Armenian relations which we believe should be highlighted with the friendship bridges that need to be built in the future.”

Officials hold a service during a ceremony for the reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, Turkey, May 7, 2022. (AA Photo)

Officials hold a service during a ceremony for the reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, Turkey, May 7, 2022. (AA Photo)

“We must see this church, which has been opened for worship, as a monument of good neighborly relations between Armenians, Turks and Kurds, Christians and Muslims,” he added.

Turkey has a large Armenian minority population and normalization talks began earlier this year between Turkey and neighboring Armenia.

Ergun Ayik, head of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church Foundation, said the group worked for the renovation of this church under the guidance of the Diyarbakır Governorate and with the support of the General Directorate of Foundations.

A woman lights a candle during the reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, Turkey, May 7, 2022. (AA Photo)

A woman lights a candle during the reopening of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, Turkey, May 7, 2022. (AA Photo)

Stating that the restoration was completed with sensitive and meticulous work, Ayik added, “We hope to preserve this church forever with the support of our community, state and regional actors.”

After a seven-year hiatus at the church, the bell rang, a rite of blessing was performed, candles were lit, and prayers were performed.

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