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Armenian Church canonises 1.5 mn Armenians massacred by Ottomans

AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev<br />Worshippers take part in the canonization ceremony for the victims of the Armenian Genocide in Echmiadzin, outside Yerevan, on April 23, 2015
AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev
Worshippers take part in the canonization ceremony for the victims of the Armenian Genocide in Echmiadzin, outside Yerevan, on April 23, 2015

The Armenian Church on Thursday conferred sainthood on some 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman forces a century ago, in what is believed to be the biggest canonisation service in history.

ECHMIADZIN (Armenia) (AFP)

The two-hour ceremony outside Armenia’s main cathedral, Echmiadzin, close to the capital Yerevan, ended at 7:15 pm local time, or 1915 according to the 24-hour clock (1515 GMT), to symbolise the year when the massacres started during World War I.

“Over a million Armenians were deported, killed, tortured but in the face of this they stayed faithful to Christ,” Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, said at the ceremony.

“They were persecuted for their faith in Christ.”

Clergy 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.

After the ceremony, bells rang out across Armenia and a minute of silence was observed.

Bells also tolled in cities around the world including Madrid, Venice, Berlin and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Armenian television said.

The service 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.

Ex-Soviet Armenia and the huge Armenian diaspora worldwide have battled for decades to get the World War I massacres at the hands of the Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1917 recognised as a targeted genocide.

But modern Turkey — the successor to the Ottoman Empire — has rejected the term genocide and relations remain frozen to this day.

Ankara says 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil — rather than religious — strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

© 2015 AFP

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