Over 500 people attended a Divine Liturgy on Sunday, which was held at the Armenian Church of Virgin Mary (Sourp Asdvadzadzin) in northern Nicosia for the first time in 50 years, Turkish Cypriot daily ‘Kibris Postasi’ reports.
The liturgy which began at midday was led by Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian. The UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Representative to Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim, Representative of Religious Affairs Şakir Alemdar and many foreign mission chiefs along with politicians and government officials from the South were among the congregation.
The medieval church of Virgin Mary lies in the heart of what was the Armenian quarter of Nicosia until 1964, when the community abandoned the area during the inter-communal troubles. The last liturgy took place in January 1964.
Originally a Benedictine/Carthusian nunnery, this Gothic church which dates from 1308 and is situated near Paphos Gate, passed into the hands of the Armenians sometime prior to 1504. On the same grounds were located the Armenian Prelature, the Melikian-Ouzounian elementary school, the Armenian Genocide monument and the Melikian mansion, all occupied by Turkish-Cypriots during the 1963-1964 troubles. During 1974 it was seized by the Turkish Army.
The Church Complex which was in a very bad condition, was restored between 2008-2013 by UNDP-ACT and USAID funding following an initiative made by American Ambassador John Koenig.
Speaking to press after the liturgy, Gora Terziyan, an Armenian Cypriot said, “We are very happy to be able to hold a liturgy here after 50 years. I went to schools around the church, this was my neighbourhood. We returned to our home. I hope these kinds of developments contribute to the peace process”.
Güla Kasabiyan, Greek Armenian said “Today is a proof that problems can be solved. We always have to look forward in order to reach peace”.