IN A ceremony that was described as "deeply moving", the
Armenian Church last week canonised the 1.5 million victims of the
1915-23 genocide at the hands of the Ottomans.
The two Armenian Catholicoi (patriarchs) presided. The Western
Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia, Aram I, spoke of the unusual
procedure for the canonisation of 1.5 million people. The murdered
ancestors of almost all living Armenians are regarded as martyrs
and thus saints by acclaim rather than process. From now on they
may be publicly invoked in prayer, an expression of the solidarity
of the communion of saints.
Two large icons of the martyrs were consecrated with holy oil,
and children released doves. The prayers were for peace, justice,
and the ending of all genocide. In the days leading up to the
ceremony, the Armenian government had organised a global forum for
the ending of genocide.
At the opening of the forum, the Armenian President, Serzh
Sargsyan, had said that he hoped the centennial events would embody
remembrance, gratitude for the sacrifice of so many, the prevention
of similar events, and a revival of Armenian nationhood.
The next day, a survivor of another genocide, a Presbyterian
woman who survived the attacks on the Tutsi minority in Rwanda in
1994, read out a declaration from the forum at the state ceremony
around the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan.
The commemoration included speeches from the five heads of state
present (Armenia, Russia, France, Cyprus, and Serbia), a Christian
liturgy, a minute's silence, and the showing of footage of the
events of 1915.