High ranking Armenian cleric visits Cyprus

Cyprus Mail, Cyprus
July 27 2008

High ranking Armenian cleric visits Cyprus

Unity is the source of strength
By Alexander-Michael Hadjilyra

CATHOLICOS of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Aram I has
called on Turkey to reconcile with its past and formally accept the
Armenian genocide.

In a recent visit to Cyprus, Aram I said that he did believe that
Armenians and Turks could live together, but that Turkey had to admit
to its past.

`The people of Turkey are not our enemy. But we have a problem. And it
is critically important that it is solved. We cannot ignore the past
or deny our history. The Genocide is deeply rooted into the common
consciousness of our people. It’s not fiction; it’s a fact,’ he said.

Aram I also called on Turkey to respect the law when it came to the
freedom of religious expression for Armenians in Cyprus.

`I have expressed my concern to the government and the United Nations
over the issue that Armenians are prohibited from holding masses in
their Turkish-occupied churches. It is vitally important that the
occupying forces preserve the identity and sacredness of the religious
sites. This is part of international law and human rights,’ he added.

On the question of the restoration of the two Armenian churches and
the Armenian monastery in the occupied areas which are falling apart,
Aram I demanded for the restoration of all churches and not just the
Armenian ones, as the current situation showed a lack of respect for
sites of religious, historical and archaeological value.

Aram I was in Cyprus this week and held visits with the political and
religious leadership of the island. After his meeting with President
Demetris Christofias, the Catholicos of Cicilia spoke of the
President’s evident desire to unify the island.

`I had a very interesting conversation with the President of the
Republic. He is really committed to the process of reunification, and
he is serious. He told me that he is going to continue
committedly. But when you reunify two things, you also need the others
committed, you cannot do that alone,’ he said.

He also had a meeting with House President Marios Garoyian, who is
Armenian, and the cleric spoke of his happiness that Armenians in
Cyprus were so integrated into Cypriot society.

`We are proud that he [Garoyian] is of Armenian origin and that he is
conscious of that. Here there are people of Armenian, Greek, Latin and
Maronite origin, but the common denominator bringing them together is
that they are all Cypriots. We need to accept and respect each other
the way we are, not the way we want others to become.

`I am very happy to see that our people in this country are very much
integrated into the fabric of the society. They participate fully,
actively and responsibly in all spheres of the society,’ he added.

And his message to the Armenians of Cyprus:

`As I repeatedly say, we must be active participants of the societies
in which we live. But above all unity: unity is the source of
strength,’ he concluded.