Christians from Turkey and around the world have started to travel to Akhtamar Island on Lake Van for the fifth annual Divine Liturgy on the island’s famous 10th century church, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The church was reopened to occasional prayers in 2010 after a hiatus of nearly 100 years.
Turkish authorities restored the church between 2005 and 2007 before opening it as a museum. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated there for the first time in 95 years in 2010.
The Divine Liturgy will be held on Sept. 7 at the historic Surp Khach (Holy Cross) Church with the acting head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey, Aram Atesyan. This year, Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew and the spiritual leader of Turkey’s Syriac community, Yusuf Cetin, will also be participating in the service for the first time.
Worshippers are expected to pray for peace in the Middle East and the world during the service.
Today, the Armenian community in Turkey, which numbers around 70,000, is almost entirely concentrated in Istanbul.
Gevas Mayor Sinan Hakan said his local administration would offer a “Peace Lunch” in the center of the district after the service this year.
“Gevas is a significant center for Christianity and Islam. As locals of Gevas, we want our guests to feel at home while they are here as part of the ceremony. They are not strangers to us. There was a tradition of living together with them for thousands of years. We want to revitalize that here on the day,” said Hakan.