ECHMIADZIN (AFP) — The Armenian Church on Thursday conferred sainthood on some 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman forces a century ago, as tensions raged over Turkey’s refusal to recognize the killings as genocide.
The ceremony, which is believed to be the biggest canonization service in history, came ahead of commemorations expected to see millions of people including heads of state on Friday mark 100 years since the start of the killings.
The two-hour ceremony outside Armenia’s main cathedral, Echmiadzin, close to the capital Yerevan, ended at 7:15 pm local time, 19:15 in military time, to symbolize the year when the massacres started during the First World War.
“During the dire years of the genocide of the Armenians, millions of our people were uprooted and massacred in a premeditated manner, passed through fire and sword, tasted the bitter fruits of torture and sorrow,” Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, said at the ceremony.
“The canonization of the martyrs of the genocide brings life-giving new breath, grace and blessing to our national and ecclesiastical life.”
Clergymen in ornate robes sang ancient chants outside the imposing cathedral built in a pale pink variety of limestone at an open-air altar in a churchyard full of spring greenery.