Catholicosate of Cilicia to Sue Turkey over Historic Headquarters in Sis

YEREVAN (Armenian Weekly)—Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church said the Holy See was preparing to initiate legal claims against Turkey to regain ownership of the historic headquarters of the Catholicosate of Sis.

“The Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia will soon present its legal claims to Turkey’s Constitutional Court, demanding the return of its historic seat, the Sis Catholicosate, to its rightful owners—the Armenian Church and the Armenian people,” said His Holiness.

Aram I’s message was delivered before attendees of the fifth Armenia-Diaspora Pan-Armenian meeting at the Yerevan Opera House on Sept. 19, organized and hosted by Armenia’s Ministry of the Diaspora.

During the speech, Aram I said, “We cannot remain indifferent towards the abuse of the rights of the Armenian nation. Indifference amounts to the betrayal of the nation.” The Armenian Genocide Centennial will be marked by such initiatives and acts of commemoration that will leave permanent stamps on—and give new direction to—the Armenian Cause, he said. His Holiness also discussed the efforts of recent years, noting, “It is now time that we move Hai Tahd efforts beyond the recognition of the Armenian Genocide into the legal sphere.” During the past two years, under his supervision, a great deal of work has been carried out to reach that goal in collaboration with international law experts, he added.

“If Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejects our claims, we will immediately present our case to the European Court of Human Rights,” he said. “If we win the case, the honor and victory will belong to our nation and church. And if we lose the case, that will also be a victory, because in presenting our case we will have reminded the perpetrators and the international community that the Armenian nation remains committed to demanding its rights no matter the number of years that distance it from the onset of the genocide.”

Finally, His Holiness noted that this legal initiative would require significant funding, but that he trusted he would receive the support of the Armenian people, because the Armenian Church is essentially the people, and any church center ultimately belongs to the people.

The city of Sis (modern-day Kozan) was where the headquarters of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia was located from 1293 to 1921. During the Armenian Genocide, the Armenians of Cilicia were subjected to massacres. The last Catholicos in Sis was Sahak II, who fled to Syria with the surviving Armenian population of Cilicia in 1921.

His Holiness’s speech was delivered during the opening ceremony of the conference, which also featured speeches by Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian, Artsakh President Bako Sahakian, Catholicos of All Armenians His Holiness Karekin II, Catholic Patriarch Nerses Petros XIX, and Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau Chairman Hrant Markarian.