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Armenian pilgrimage visit Monastery in occupied north May 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.

Two hundred Armenians on Sunday returned to the abandoned mediaeval Monastery of Saint Magar in the occupied and Turkish military controlled northern part of Cyprus, where prayers were said for the first time in 33 years.

“It was a great success and a very moving experience, which brought back many, pleasant, old memories,” said Vartkes Mahdessian, the Armenian deputy in the House of Representatives.

Many of the pilgrims used to spend a great deal of time at the Monastery until the Turkish invasion in July 1974, and they were escorted to the site by a United Nations patrol and Turkish Cypriot police. The trip took place following an initiative from Mahdessian, with the help of the Armenian Metropolis and the UN.

“Many young people came along with us and our trip raised awareness, not only among our youth but also with Greek Cypriots,” he explained.

The pilgrimage was in homage to the pre-invasion days, when people used to attend religious services there on the first Sunday of May. It wasn’t all good news though, as the visitors found the church to be in a derelict state, with many inscriptions destroyed. The perpetrators are thought to be prospective illegal developers who had set their sights on transforming the Monastery into a casino. Eyewitnesses reported that many buildings had no roofs and are in danger of collapsing.

“It was all very upsetting to see,” said Mahdessian.

Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian led those present in a prayer of grace, Hayr Mer in Armenian, while some had brought candles with them to mark the holy day of the Monastery’s saint, a Coptic recluse who had lived in the caves below the present site of the Monastery in the 12th century.

The 9,000-acre estate of olive, citrus and carob trees leads down to the occupied northern seashore, which lies within a military zone and near a Turkish army camp in the Kyrenia mountain range.

“My intention is to organise a similar pilgrimage every year on the first Sunday of May,” the deputy said. “We must remind ourselves of our heritage before the older generations start to disappear.”

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