Archbishop Choloyan Issues Statement on Ricciardone Church Comment

NEW YORK (A.W.)—Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, Eastern United States, issued a statement on Aug. 15 in response to the comment by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone that “most of the Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 are still operating as churches.”

Prelate Oshagan Choloyan

Below is his statement in full.

The recent statements made by Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, President Obama’s appointee as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, about Christian churches in Turkey, is so blatantly false that it cannot remain unchallenged.

The ambassador recently stated that most of the more than 2,000 “Christian churches  functioning prior to 1915 are still operating as churches.” He went on to state that some operate “as museums. The remaining have fallen into disrepair or were converted to mosques for lack of use.”

How pleased we would be if this were true. However, the facts of the fate of Christian churches in Turkey are quite different from that described by the ambassador. As a representative of the United States of America, the champion of religious liberty and freedom, we expect better of Ambassador Ricciardone who has a duty to uphold the standards set by the United States.

The facts are quite clear. From the massacres of Armenians in 1895-96 and the Armenian Genocide in 1915, to the decades following the establishment of the Turkish republic, Christian houses of worship were systematically destroyed or confiscated. My own church’s hierarchal see, the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, was a victim of this process, and today is exiled in Lebanon. The archives of the Catholicosate contain hundreds of original deeds and other documentation of churches and church owned property that were confiscated.

The ambassador may be looking to ingratiate himself in the eyes of the Turkish government, but he cannot create his own “facts” and try to pass them as the truth. The ambassador need only to look in our own State Department’s archives to confirm the facts. Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Syriacs, and all our Christian brothers and sisters here in the United States who share roots in their biblical Anatolian homelands can attest to the truth of the wholesale destruction of our sacred houses of worship, first by the Ottoman Empire and later by the Republic of Turkey.

Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan
Prelate, Armenian Apostolic Church of America
Eastern United States of America


  1. Most Italians are good decent people,this guy, must be a turkie, in Italian clothing,or a good stooge for them.

  2. About time that American/Armenian clergy show moral courage to speak against blatant political immorality.

     Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, President Obama's "recess" appointee 
    to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, has, very regrettably, made a patently 
    incorrect and deeply painful claim that "most of the Christian churches 
    functioning [on the territory of present-day Turkey] prior to 1915 are still 
    operating as churches."  
     Whether unintentional and out of ignorance or premeditated and 
    deliberate, this blatantly false assertion by the representative of the United 
    States to the Republic of Turkey is absolutely unacceptable. 
     Rather than unapologetically affirming  the truth and - in the best of the 
    American tradition - defending religious freedom against all threats, 
    Ambassador Ricciardone's statement simply serves to advance the Turkish 
    government's campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. 
     The presence of an Ambassador in Ankara who is unaware of or 
    uninterested in the truth and the consequences of the Ottoman and Republican 
    Turkish government's genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs, Greeks and 
    other Christians materially undermines  U.S. interests, compromises American 
    values, and weakens international efforts to defend religious freedom for 
    peoples of all faiths.  Sadly, but unmistakably, with this hateful and hurtful 
    statement, Ambassador Ricciardone has demonstrated that he is not the right 
    candidate to effectively and responsibly represent the United States in Turkey. 
    Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian 
    Prelate, Armenian Apostolic Church
    Western USA 
  4. The statement issued should be followed up with a formal complaint to the state department.  Our national interests have been robbed by Turks because we have not been united. I call upon all Armenians, find a way to unite our forces to protect our national interests in the globe. 

  5. Your Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, and
    Your Eminence Moushegh Mardirossian:

    Please accept my gratitude for speaking up and for setting the records straight in your justified answer to Ambassador Francis Ricciardone’s recent statement regarding the Armenian Churches in the Turkish Republic.  History knows it only too well the dilapidated at best and the very neglectful 300,000 Armenian Churhes in Turkey for the past 100+ years. 

    Respectfully yours,

  6.    It is gratifying to see our clergy provide public leadership on such an important issue. We need to turn this into a win by leveraging the recent visibility from the “return of churches” resolution into a concerted effort to regain control over our remaining churches. Let us unite(Prelacy and Diocese)  to bring our influence to bear.

  7. Have no fear. I am sure that Senator Menendez and most probably Senator Boxer will put a hold on this nomination. How ignorant of Ricciardone, to think that his nonsense would be accepted as fact.

  8. Absolutely… UNITED WE CAN WIN ALL FRONTS… So happy to see our leadership started to speak up on such an important issue as this….

    I called and left a message for Mr. Riccardone’s voicemail expressing my frustration and dissapointement…Hope all of us follow that step… ANCA provided a phone number to call… go ahead and call …

    God Bless…


  9. Mr. Riccardone, if you have not yet done so, read a copy of our Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s 
    own book AMBASSSADOR MORGENTHAU’S STORY – certainly available via USA State Department. Read/learn what he faced, for such Ottoman mentality still exists even in today’s Turkish leaderships.  Genocides continuing since they have not faced the justice for their crimes against humanity – the Turkish governments crimes of their inhumanity – unending, into today, 2011.

  10. Mr. Riccardone, This may could be helpful to understand and feel more about Ottoman Empires acts on 1915 into today.
    24 April 1915

    The Armenian Genocide

    On the 24 of April 1915, the Turks (The Ottoman Empire) committed the ugliest, most fierce full & powerful crime, the genocide against the Armenians & mankind, which was the greatest of the century. The idea of destroying Armenia and terminating the Armenians began on 1890.

    1.5 million Armenians were killed, the Armenian leaders were assassinated, the writers were hung, the churches and houses burned, and the rest were sent to desert, without shelter, food or water, to die there.

    Till this date, the Turks do not recognize their crime, the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Case committee & all the Armenians around the world are working to make the World hear, understand, evaluate, judge & accept Armenian Genocide.

    Each year, the 24 of April is a memorial day, where all Armenians around the world, gather together in their countries and address the world about The Armenian Genocide and make the Turks understand that as far as there is an Armenian in this world, there will be someone who will never forget this Genocide & ask to recognize it.

    As the Armenian writer, William Saroian said, “ I should like to see any power of the world that can destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard and whose prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia, see if you can do it. Send them into the desert, without bread and water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia”.

    Respect to all who lost their lives, who are martyrs. Nobody can go back and make e new & bright beginning, but everybody can start now and make a happy ending. 
    Aram V. Tchaparian

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