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Honour for Armenia’s 1.5m martyrs

01 May 2015


Open-air: above: the canonisation service

Open-air: above: the canonisation service

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.

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