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HOLY ETCHMIADZIN, Armenia, April 24. /TASS/. Armenia’s Apostolic Church has declared canonisation of 1.5 million people of Armenian ethnicity annihilated in amassed ethnic purges in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 during a campaign that has become widely known as the Armenian genocide.
Bishops' Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church made a decision to canonise victims of the genocide last year when the Armenian bishops assembled in full force for the first time since 1651 and proclaimed April 24 the Day of Commemoration of Saint Martyrs slain during the Armenian genocide.
"During the years of genocide, millions of our compatriots were driven out of their homes and killed, went through fire and iron, and tasted the bitter fruit of suffering and sorrow," Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Church, said at a ceremony held on Thursday. "But facing horrible hardship and death itself, they remained strong within Christ’s love, bearing the evidence of unwavering faith."
After the canonisation had been announced, children let white doves fly up into the sky while the church choir was performing a hymn. The Armenian Church’s main relics were taken out from the Treasury of Holy Etchmiadzin Cathedral for worshipping by believers. The cathedral is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Scholars believe it was the first cathedral built in Armenia in the early fourth century and consider it to be the oldest cathedral in the world.
Christian Churches delegated their representatives for participation in the canonisation ceremony in Armenia. The Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian Orthodox Churches and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church known also as Indian Orthodox Church, which are close to the Armenian Apostolic Church in the interpretation of faith and the canon, were among them.
The delegation of Russia’s Orthodox Church was headed by Metropolitan Varsonofy of St Petersburg and Ladoga, a permanent member of the Holy Synod and chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate.
During and after the First World War, the Ottoman Empire's government systematically exterminated its minority Armenian subjects in some provinces of their historic homeland located in the territory, which is incorporated in the present-day Turkey.
Mass purges took place then and were implemented by two separate methods a sweeping destruction of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labour, and the deportation of women, children and the elderly on death marches to the Syrian Desert.
Various estimates suggest that the loss of lives in the Armenian nation stood at around 1.5 million.
The main programme of the genocide commemorative events in Armenia is scheduled for April 24.