Turkish Armenian Patriarchate put on the agenda, the situation of churches, which have been closed to communities since March 16 due to the coronavirus epidemic, positive developments and efforts to normalize life with certain permits, the issue of reviewing previously taken decisions was put on the agenda with His Beatitude Sahak II.
Below is the entire statement from the Turkish Armenian Patriarchate;
SPIRITUAL COUNSIL DECLARATION RELATED TO THE OPENING OF CHURCHES
Our Patriarchate’s Spiritual Assembly convened on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in the afternoon, at the Patriarchate Board Hall, in the presidency of His Beatitude of Patriarch. As it is known, our churches were closed to mass worship as of March 16, 2020 with the decision of the Spiritual Assembly considering the recommendations of the health care professionals due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Our Spiritual Assembly has raised the issue of reviewing previously taken decisions, taking into account the positive developments in the field of health and the work to normalize life with certain permits. First of all, we would like to remind you with particular emphasis that the members of the Spiritual Councils, especially the Patriarchate of His Beatitude, want our churches to be reopened so that worship, baptism, weddings and funerals can be performed. However, in addition to this request about opening churches, we would like to know the fact that the valuable health of our community members is also taken into account.
1. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS: As it is known, provided that the rules set by the health and science committees are followed, mass worship is permitted in the outer courtyards of mosques and in the interiors of large mosques. However, the opening of the venues used for public meetings and events such as halls is expected to be implemented in the coming days. Certain permissions have been granted provided that the mask use and social distance rules are obeyed. However, it is a fact that the pandemic has not ended yet. The place of gathering for our meetings and other ceremonies is not the church outer courtyard or complex, but the interior of the church. Therefore, it is quite difficult to go to the place limitation within the church by taking into account the social distance rule. In case of trying to apply this rule, it is envisioned that the transaction will cause complaints and even arguments. Therefore, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to adapt the permits and the social distance rule provided to our Muslim neighbors by considering their worship system. The problem depends on serious concerns about the health of our congregation. The reopening of the doors of our churches with a sudden decision without taking any precautions will mean the declaration that there is no more danger, and it is obvious that it will lead to possible new contamination cases.
2. OPENING CHURCHES AGAIN TO THE COMMUNITY: As a result of the meeting, it was decided to consider the “Vardavar” Sunday on July 19, 2020 in order to open the churches for mass worship again. Naturally, official declarations about the general condition of our country will be taken into consideration, and when necessary, the opening date of the churches will be postponed or closed again for mass worship.
3. USING OF THE GARDENS AND HALLS: Until a second instruction, the use of church gardens and halls for acceptance or other purposes was not considered appropriate.
4. ABOUT HOLY COMMUNION: During the pandemic, the members of the Spiritual Councilors expressed their concerns that the members of our community were away from both worship and most importantly, Holy Communion. According to this; on June 1, 2020 from 9:30 to 11:00 am, the religious officials of Kadıköy Surp Takavor, Üsküdar Surp Haç, Feriköy Surp Vartanants, Kumkapı Surp Asdvadzadzin, Samatya Surp Kevork, Yedikule Surp Pırgiç, Bakırköy Dznunt Surp Asdvadzadzni, Yeşilköy Surp Isdepanos accepted the personal applications that were made and gave Holy Communion to those who wish. In these cases, both religious officials and applicants must comply with the health rules (mask use, social distance and hygiene). The aim is to think about the health of others.
5. ABOUT SOORP BADARAK PUBLICATIONS:
The sermons of Soorp Badarak rituals and the sermons of His Beatitude Patriarch given at the Patriarchate Church of Kumkapı on Sundays, will continue to be published on our Patriarchate Facebook page. In the event that the curfew restriction is lifted on Sundays, Soorp Badarak will be offered in churches that are available, provided that they are closed to the public.
6. ABOUT RELIGIOUS WEDDINGS (CHURCH WEDDINGS): With the participation of only first-degree relatives, it has been decided to allow religious weddings (Church Weddings) to be held in our churches from Sunday, June 14, 2020, provided that the conditions such as mask use, social distance and disinfectant usage determined by our official and health institutions are complied with. We advise you to be content with presenting the congratulations and to avoid handshake.
7. ABOUT BAPTISM: With the participation of only first-degree relatives, it is decided to allow baptism ceremonies to be held in our churches from Sunday, June 14, 2020, provided that the conditions such as mask use, social distance and disinfectant usage determined by our official and health institutions are complied with. It is presented to the parents and applicants for the ceremony that the child who will be baptized will have physical contact with the Religious Officer, Gınkahayr and Gınkamayr, and that the social distance rule will be violated. When deemed necessary, it is recommended to postpone baptism ceremonies until the normalization process begins.
8. ABOUT FUNERALS: As it is known, after the closure of our churches for mass worship, it was decided to hold the funerals in the cemeteries with the participation of first-degree relatives. During the outdoor ceremonies held in the cemeteries until now, it has been observed that the principles that the Spiritual Assembly determined by considering the health of the community and recommended its implementation were not obeyed. Therefore, the members of the Spiritual Assembly expressed their concerns about the violation of the rules of health, both inside and outside the church, stating that the number of people cannot be controlled if funerals are allowed in churches. In addition, the issue that social distance and health conditions are completely ignored in the vehicles used for the transfer of the congregation from churches to the cemetery was also taken into consideration. Again, in the funeral transfer vehicles, it is thought that if the religious official sets off with the driver and with four coffin carriers, the health rules will be violated automatically. As a result of the negotiations on all these issues, it was decided to continue the funeral ceremonies in the cemeteries until a second instruction. We would like to remind our community of the suggestions made previously about participation in funerals. Please make sure that only relatives of the first degree attend these ceremonies. Those other than these will naturally want to respect the memory of those who passed away. n these extraordinary situations, please offer your condolences and respect by using the telephone or electronic media. You can also pray from your location for the well-being of the spirit of the deceased during the funeral. Our same suggestion is also valid for burials or Giragamudk prayers in homes. In these prayers, please make sure that only first-degree relatives attend. Please follow the health rules. All these suggestions were made to protect the community’s health.
We bring to the attention of our community that the issues deemed necessary to be implemented in case of new developments will be announced. May the merciful shadow of God be upon us all. May this extraordinary situation end and may we continue our spiritual life under normal conditions as before.