March 4, 2021 - 17:22 AMT
Karabakh top cleric says Sunday mass will return to Amaras

The Primate of the Diocese of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamian has said that the three monasteries of the Diocese – Gandzasar, Amaras and Dadivank – must always remain open to serve believers.

According to the Primate, Amaras monastery, which is now situated close to the contact line with Azerbaijan, will host liturgies every Sunday.

The Bishop also said "prayers must always be heard" in places of worships, urging the residents of both Karabakh and Armenia to make pilgrimages to said monasteries.

He also said the Azerbaijani troops sometimes hinder the Armenian worshipers' visits, but the Russian peacekeepers usually help settle disputes and ease the situation.

About 30 pilgrims from Nagorno-Karabakh, accompanied by Russian peacekeepers, recently visited Amaras. Russian peacekeepers also accompany Christians to the medieval Armenian monastery of Dadivank, which came under Azerbaijan's control following the 44-day war in Karabakh in fall 2020.

During the recent military hostilities, Azerbaijani forces launched two targeted attacks on the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. After taking control of the city, they destroyed the domes of Saint John the Baptist Church. Azerbaijan earlier "restored" a church by replacing its Armenian inscription with glass art. Concerns about the preservation of cultural sites in Nagorno-Karabakh are made all the more urgent by the Azerbaijani government’s history of systemically destroying indigenous Armenian heritage—acts of both warfare and historical revisionism. The Azerbaijani government has secretly destroyed a striking number of cultural and religious artifacts in the late 20th century. Within Nakhichevan alone, a historically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani forces destroyed at least 89 medieval churches, 5,840 khachkars (Armenian cross stones) and 22,000 historical tombstones between 1997 and 2006.