Aram I calls for return of stolen Armenian Churches (Report,Snaps and Video)

International Conference on the Armenian Genocide, part 1

International Conference on the Armenian Genocide, part 2

26/2/2012

A two-day international conference titled “The Armenian Genocide: from Recognition to Reparation” was held in Beirut in the presence of experts from all over the world, ambassadors, current and former government ministers and members of the Lebanese Parliament, heads of Armenian religious communities and representatives of Armenian political parties and other institutions, Asbarez reports.

His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia welcomed the guests and the participants and explained the background leading to the conference. Discussing the issue of reparations, Aram I said, “Turkey must return the church and community properties confiscated by the Ottoman Turkish authorities to their legal owner, the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia. As the Catholicosate of Cilicia, we claim the ownership of our properties confiscated by the Turkish authorities.”

The Catholicosate of Cilicia held jurisdiction over more than 200 Armenian churches in the Ottoman Empire before World War I. Other Armenian churches, close to 2,000, were under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate in Istanbul, the Catholicosate in Aghtamar, the Catholicosate in Etchmiadzin, and the Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

“The decision of US House of Representatives to urge Turkey to return confiscated churches and church properties to their rightful owners, and the approval of a bill by the French Parliament and the Senate making it a crime to deny the Armenian Genocide, along with the Turkish government’s aggressive reaction, have, once again, brought the Armenian Genocide to the fore of international headlines. The Armenian Genocide is no longer an exclusive concern of Armenian-Turkish relations; it has become integral part of the global agenda,” His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, said in his introductory remarks.

“For decades we have focused on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey and the international community. In fact, the recent Court cases against American, Turkish and French insurance and private companies; the decision of US Congress to urge Turkey to return churches and church-related properties to their owners, and the Turkish government’s decision on 27 August 2011decided to return to the minorities the properties confiscated since 1936, came to re-emphasize the crucial importance of reparation. Indeed, recognition of truth implies reparation; these acts are intimately interconnected. This is at the heart of international law,” the Catholicos stated.

“On the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, should we accept a symbolic formal apology and recognition by Turkey of the genocide? Should we claim financial compensation for the victims of Genocide and for the properties? Or, should we claim the return of church, community and personal properties? Further, should we demand that reparation include the damages that the Armenian people were subjected to during the “white genocide,” namely the constant threat to the Armenian identity in a diaspora situation that was caused by the “red genocide”? Should we, finally, consider land reparation within the provisions of international law? The formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide is a conditio sine qua non for any attempt or process aimed at restoration of justice. And, as a first concrete step in the direction of reparation, Turkey must return the church and community properties confiscated by the Ottoman Turkish authorities to its legal owner, the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia. As the Catholicosate of Cilicia, which was established in the 10th Century in Cilicia, south-western part of present Turkey, and which was in 1915 forcefully uprooted from its historical seat, we claim the ownership of our properties confiscated by the Turkish authorities,” His Holiness Aram I said.

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