After the Armenian genocide, the church passed into private hands and is now up for sale to make it a cultural centre or a hotel in Bursa. For Levon Zekiyan, head of the Armenian Catholic Church of Turkey, “the Armenian community does not have the financial means to buy this church”.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The church put up for sale on the Internet almost a week ago belonged to the Catholic Armenian Church, the head of the Armenian Catholic Church of Turkey, Archbishop Levon Zekiyan, said. With regret, he noted that “the Armenian community does not have the financial means to buy this church”.
More than a week ago, an ad appeared on the Internet offering for sale an ancient Armenian church in Bursa, a large city on the southern shores of the Sea of Marmara (north-western Turkey) on the slopes of the Uludağ (Great Mountain), the ancient Mysian Olympus (Mount), a famous tourist site.
The ad noted that the church had become “private property following the [city’s] demographic shift in 1923, and was used afterwards as a tobacco warehouse, then as a weaving factory.”
The reference to “demographic shift” is a vague allusion to the Armenian genocide, which resulted in the emptying of Armenian communities in the early 20th century.
The ad suggested that the church could be used as a cultural centre, a place for art, a museum or a hotel.
The church in question is dedicated to Saint Gregory the Illuminator (Surp Krikor Lusavoriç), and is located in Bursa’s Setbaşi district.
“Turning the church into a cultural venue serving the public won’t bother us,” said Archbishop Levon Zekiyan, stressing again that the Armenian community does not have the money to buy the church.
“We hope to have the authorisation to celebrate Mass at least once a year. I plan to discuss this in the coming days with local authorities.”
The Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Turkey issued a statement saying that “it is a very sad thing that some people perceive a church as a commercial asset or a source of income.”
Garo Pylan, an ethnic Armenian who is a Member of Turkey’s Grand National Assembly for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), slammed the sale.
“An Armenian church for sale in Bursa?” he asks. “But is it ever possible to put a place of worship up for sale? How can the state and society allow all this? Shame on you!”