1st service held in renovated Armenian church in Turkish southeast

After a seven-year hiatus, a 16th-century Armenian church that suffered damage by terrorists before restoration by the Turkish government reopened for worship services on Sunday.

The first service in the Surp Giragos Armenian Church was officiated by Sahak Mashalian, the Turkish Armenian patriarch.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mashalian said that people from Istanbul and all over Turkish Anatolia came to Diyarbakir for the service.

"We performed our prayer in this beautiful, historic place. A truly impressive environment," he said.

“This place is actually a monument to the multi-colored, multi-faith, and multi-denominational past of this city.”

He added: “I hope this diversity will be understood as a treasure, and we will all live together in this country in happiness and peace under this flag.”

Touching on the multiyear, $2.14 million restoration of two local churches, Mashalian praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for spearheading the effort, saying: "I specially thank our president for his encouragement. He personally took care of the renovation of this church and gave the necessary instructions."

He said that there are other churches in the region that need restoration, adding: "With their restoration, this region can really turn into a world-famous tourist hub."

Talin Gokdemir, who traveled from Istanbul for the service, said: "We’re very happy that this church has reopened in Diyarbakir. We held a ritual here and prayed for everyone's health and happiness."

Ahead of Sunday’s services, Turkish officials on Saturday had officially reopened the church, mentioning the “excitement” over it opening its doors once again./aa