For more than 1,000 years the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar island in eastern Turkey has been a holy site for Armenian Orthodox Christians and today it’s once again opening its doors to the faithful.
I feel happy most of all because our people are gathering here from all around the world Armenian Orthodox Christians haven’t been able to worship here since 2015 that was when the government canceled the event due to what it said was an increase in activity by the PKK a group turkey considers a terror organization, but now Armenian Christians are able to return to the island for annual services.
It’s a tradition that started eight years ago they believe this site was built to house a piece of the cross that Jesus died on but the importance of this service is not just religious many say it’s a sign of increased religious tolerance from the government.
Turkey is changing it’s not the old turkey anymore we have a government which allows minority rights and that makes us happy the mass is an emotional experience for Armenia pilgrims they’ve come together from all over the world to worship at this ancient site this shows Brotherhood and this is very nice we have mass here.
But the site has another significance in 2015 UNESCO added the cathedral to its list of tentative World Heritage Sites it’s considered one of the finest remaining examples of medieval Armenian architecture and now it’s also a museum.
Tourism officials in Turkey say five and a half million people have visited Akhtamar in the last eight years after a major renovation that brought the cathedral back to life, visitors say they hope this medieval monument can be enjoyed by pilgrims and tourists for another thousand years.