By Evie Andreou
IN A heavily emotional atmosphere on Sunday, the first liturgy in more than 50 years took place at the Armenian church of Virgin Mary (Sourp Azdvadzadzin) in northern Nicosia.
The event was addressed by the House representative of the Armenian community group Vartkes Mahdessian.
The liturgy was carried out by Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian who also re-consecrated the church as it had not been used for such a long time said Alexander Michael Hadjilyra, Mahdessian’s spokesman.
Also present at the liturgy were state officials, representatives of other religious communities of the island and members of foreign diplomatic missions in Cyprus as well as a large number of Armenian Cypriots who came from all over the island and from abroad.
“The church was full. People had to stand outside too,” said Hadjilyra.
Upon arrival everyone was given candles and a booklet with the church’s history.
“Everyone kept their candles lit during the liturgy. It was wonderful, I’m so happy,” said Anahid Eskidjian, who sang in the choir on Sunday and is also a member of the Women’s Church Committee.
Like many of the congregation, Eskidjian was once a resident of the area which, until it was abandoned during the intercommunal unrest in 1964, had been the main residential quarter of the Armenian community.
To commemorate and celebrate the day, members of the Armenian Church Committee offered everyone attending sweets, incense, olive branches and a photo of the church with the date of the liturgy.
The event gave the opportunity to many former residents of the quarter to visit their homes, meet with old school friends and neighbours and reminisce.
“It was a re-union indeed! After the liturgy, despite the rain, people stood and talked, reminding each other incidents of their childhood. It was a wonderful day,” said Eskidjian whose home was opposite the church.
“Many people had not come back here since 1964, so it was also an opportunity to go see their homes,” said Hadjilyra.
The service has also sparked hope that more will follow.
“We hope that more liturgies will be carried out in the near future and that it is not a one time thing,” said Hadjilyra.
It was a great opportunity for Armenian Cypriots to travel from abroad as next Sunday the annual pilgrimage to the Armenian Monastery of Saint Magar (Ayios Makarios) in the Pentadaktylos Mountain will take place.
The monastery which is known as Magaravank or Armenomonastiro, sits in Plataniotissa forest and is an 11th century Coptic monastery dedicated to Saint Magar. It came under the Armenian Orthodox Church in 1425 and it was inhabited by monks until 1800. Armenian families lived in the vicinity until the 1920s.
The monastery’s estate which was the Armenian Prelature’s most important source of income was used as a weekend resort by Armenian Cypriot families, and a camping site by scouts and students. The monastery’s site was abandoned in 1974.
The pilgrimage, which is also an important event of the Armenian Cypriot community, was revived in May 2007 on the initiative of House representative Mahdessian under the supervision of the UNFICYP. From 2009 onward it has been taking place at the beginning of May each year.