ETCHMIADZIN — The Armenian Apostolic Church on April 23 made saints of up to 1.5 million Armenians during an open-air ceremony to commemorate their killing by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

The ceremony, attended by church leaders and state officials, marked the first time in 400 years that the Armenian Apostolic Church has authorized any canonizations.

The procedure administered jointly by His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and Catholicos Aram I, of the Great House of Cilicia ended at 7.15 pm Yerevan time sharp (or 19.15 on the 24-hour clock) symbolizing the year (1915) when the Ottoman Empire’s genocidal policy against Armenians began.

Catholicos Karekin II, said at the ceremony: “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. Nevertheless, in the midst of horrid torments and facing death, remained strengthened by the love of Christ, bringing the witness of unshakable faith, in accord with the apostolic words, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because… the Spirit of God is resting on you.””

The ceremony was held in bright sunshine outside the fourth-century Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagarshapat, about 20 kilometers from the Armenian capital.

At the end of the two-hour ceremony, the cathedral bells rang out 100 times, an action to be repeated at Armenian churches around the world.

Only Armenian churches in Turkey did not join the April 23 chime for the canonized Genocide Martyrs (but the Armenian Patriarchy of Constantinople (Istanbul) plans a special liturgy on April 24).

In contrast, many non-Armenian churches did join the bell-ringing.Among them were also the Notre-Dame Cathedrals of Paris and Strasbourg, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the Buenos Aires Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and others.

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