100 bells ring at Kumkapı Patriarchal Church

Surp Badarak mass in memory of April 24 has been held at the Turkey Armenian Patriarchal Church. Led by Deputy Patriarch Aram Ateşyan, the ceremony was also attended by EU Minister Volkan Bozkır. President Erdoğan’s message was also read at the ceremony where white doves symbolizing peace were released and bells were rung 100 times.

In a statement to the press at the entrance of the church, Minister Bozkır said he was greatly honoured to take part in the mass to be led by Armenian Deputy Patriarch Aram Ateşyan, adding, “This is the first mass to be held officially since 1916. A representative of the Turkish government is taking part in such a ceremony for the first time”.

Bozkır: We consider it our debt to take part in this ceremony

Bozkır’s statement contained the following messages:

“It would be a great mistake to imprison this history to a single year, to 2015. We desire to investigate not only the events of 1915 but all the bloody years from 1870 to 1920 that led to the death of many people. This will enable us to look at a shared history. A shared memory, but a just memory will then emerge. We respect the pains our Armenian brothers and sisters suffered. We consider it a bad event that took place. Therefore, we are in no way opposed to the commemoration of these pains. That is why we considered it our debt to take part in this ceremony.”

“It is our desire to leave behind this animosity that has lived with us for a hundred years. With this aim, we will be together with our highly valuable Armenian brothers and sisters at the ceremony today, and we will thus look at the future with confidence.” 

Ateşyan: Days will come when we meet the dawn of fraternity between Armenian and Turkish peoples

Ateşyan, on the other hand, said in his speech at the ceremony: “We believe that the days will come when we meet the dawn of fraternity between Armenian and Turkish peoples. We also believe that God will light the torch of mutual understanding. It is that torch that symbolizes good will that will incessantly burn as a response to our prayers”.

Ateşyan commemorated those who died in Gallipoli as well as the victims of the genocide, saying “we reserve a part of our prayers from our hearts for the souls of Ottoman army soldiers who lost their lives in the Dardanelles wars” and added: “Our heartfelt prayers are for the end of destructive wars, and for the conclusion of fights that threaten human rights. May the love, mercy and grace of God prevail over all humanity with no distinction between religion, nation or race”.

Erdoğan: I commemorate Ottoman citizens who lost their lives under similar conditions

President Erdoğan also sent a message to the ceremony. Read out by archpriest Tatul Anuşyan, and addressed to Aram Ateşyan and Armenian citizens, Erdoğan’s letter featured the following messages:

“I once again respectfully commemorate all Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives under the conditions of World War I and offer my condolences to their children and grandchildren.”

“I cherish the memories across all corners of our lands of the Armenian community; the economic, social, cultural and political contributions to the Ottoman Empire and our republic we always remember with appreciation.”

“I commemorate all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives under similar conditions during World War I whatever their ethnic or religious identity.”

“We founded the state of the Republic of Turkey without forgetting these pains, but also knowing how to cope with them. And today we work and struggle with all our citizens and friends regardless of their ethnic and religious identity to reach even more beautiful days on the basis of peace and fraternity.”

“We have a culture that is able to host with enthusiasm the grandchildren of those who came to occupy our shared homeland a century ago with the aim of condemning war and praise peace and friendship. I once again state that we know the sorrowful events that the Armenian community experienced in the past and we sincerely share your pain. I also want you to know that the doors of our heart are wide open to the grandchildren of Ottoman Armenians across the world. I salute you with my most heartfelt sentiments and send you all my love and respect.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew also attended the mass. The ceremony continued with the performance of Surp Badarak hymns by the unified choir formed of members of church choirs of Istanbul.

White doves symbolizing peace were released at the end of mass, and bells were chimed a 100 times in the same manner that they were last night (April 23) at 19.15 in all Armenian churches across the world.