A group of Armenians, raised as Sunni Muslims, were baptized on October 23 as Armenian Orthodox Christians at the historic St. Kirakos (Surb Kirakos) Armenian Church in Western Armenian province Diyarbakir (current Turkish territory).
The church, which was reopened on Oct. 22 following two years of restoration work, hosted the baptism ceremony for dozens of Sunni Muslims of Armenian origin, whose ancestors converted to Islam after the 1915 killings in the Ottoman era, Hurriyet Daily News informs.
Among those to be baptized is Gaffur Turkay, who also contributed to the restoration of the Church. Turkay was going through emotional fluctuations, he told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“I wish this church had always been open,” he said. “It is unbelievable to be together here with people from all around the world with whom I share the same origins.”
The baptism ceremony, which was be closed to the press and outside visitors, was be held on October 23 at the St. Giragos Armenian Church and was led by Deputy Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ate?yan. The names of those to be baptized will not be revealed for security reasons.
A religious service was held on October 22 at the church, one day after it was re-opened following the completion of the restoration work.
Among the participants in yesterday’s service were guests from Armenia and the United States, including former foreign minister of Armenia and the leader of Armenia’s Heritage Party, Raffi Hovhannesian, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardione and Archbishop Vicken Ayvazian, diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America.
Other participants at the ceremony included Dositheos Anagnostopulos, spokesperson for the Istanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Yusuf Çetin, patriarchal vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Istanbul, Diyarbak?r Mayor Osman Baydemir and Sur Mayor Abdullah Demirba?.
The St. Kirakos Church was blessed on Oct. 22 in accordance with the traditions of the Apostolic Armenian Church.
The restoration work was funded by donations from Armenians in Istanbul and abroad through an initiative spearheaded by Vartkes Ergun Ay?k, a businessman of Armenian origin whose roots lie in Diyarbak?r, and Raffi Bedrosyan, an ex-resident of Istanbul who now lives in Canada.
The Sur District Governor’s Office in Diyarbak?r lent its support to the project as well.