29 ապրիլ, 2015 00:34

Lawsuit to be Filed in Turkey to Regain Ownership of Historic Headquarters of the Armenian Church

SIS Sis circa 1920. The Cilician Catholicosate can be seen in the background. Photo credit www.houshamadyan.com.

The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia will officially file a lawsuit  in the Turkish Constitutional Court to regain ownership of the historic Sis Catholicosate. The site includes the Catholicosate, the monastery and cathedral of St. Sophia, a major Armenian Christian holy site located in the Sis (present-day Kozan), in south-central Turkey, reports Christian News Wire.

The religious site was confiscated by the Turkish Government following the Armenian Genocide of 1915. A press conference about the lawsuit will be held on April 29 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, Payam Akhavan, former UN prosecutor at The Hague and lead international counsel in this case, Cem Sofuogleu, Turkish human rights lawyer and local counsel in this case, Teny Pirri-Simonian, Senior Advisor to the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, and Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America.

"The restoration of the Catholicosate would represent an act of justice, a first step toward the legal return of the Armenian Church and its faithful to their lawful place in their rightful homeland, and a meaningful milestone in the Armenian nation's journey toward a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide," Aram Hamparian noted that

The Catholicosate was moved from Armenia to Cilicia in the 10th century, and after changing a few locations it was finally established in Sis in 1295, where it remained until 1921. Under the Ottoman Empire, the Catholicosate of Cilicia was recognized as an independent church.  During the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923, the Armenian population of Sis was massacred and deported, and its Christian holy sites were pillaged and confiscated.

According to Payam Akhavan, a former UN prosecutor and lead international counsel in this legal action, the return of the historical Seat of the Catholicosate of Cilicia "is a litmus test for the Turkish Government's respect for the human rights of its Christian minorities, their freedom of worship in a culture of tolerance and dignity. This is a unique opportunity to do justice, to help heal the wounds of the past, to move towards Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, a better future for both nations." Akhavan represented a Coalition of Armenian and Turkish NGOs that intervened in the Dogu Perincek case that was heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on January 28.