By Michael Harutinian
On August 17, 1999 an earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale hit the Marmara region of Turkey, killing more than 18,000 people and leaving over 40,000 homeless, with an estimated 27 Armenians dead.
Immediately after the earthquake, two of Turkey’s traditional foes, Greece and Armenia, offered aid to the earthquake stricken country. At first Turkish officials denied offers of aid from Greece and Armenia. The government even went as far as to request that the shipments of blood not contain any blood from Greek donors. Once the Turkish citizens learned that the government was not accepting all the available aid, protesters began demanding the resignation of government officials. To avoid this the government began to accept all aid. The Armenian Government sent a plane that contained medicine, blankets, tents and four power generators weighing nine tons.
The Patriarchate was established in 1461 by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. A Patriarch was appointed to deal with the Christian population since the Ottoman Empire’s government could not and would not deal with the problems of their Christian subjects.
The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople sustained structural damage to its buildings. Fissures were found in the bell tower of Kumkapi built by Khrimian Hayrig and Samatyo built by Patriarch Harutiun Vahabedian and also the Sourp Prgich Hospital was damaged. The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople serves over 50,000 Armenians in Turkey. The estimated cost of rebuilding the churches in the Armenian Patriarchate is $1.2 million. At the invitation of their Eminences, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian of the Eastern and Western Dioceses of the Armenian Church, His Beatitude Mesrob II will visit New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco for fund-raisers. In New York there will be a benefit concert held in St. Vartan Cathedral on October 1, 1999.
His Beatitude Mesrob II adopted three Armenian orphans who lost their families in the earthquake. The Patriarchate will take care of the children until they graduate from college. The Patriarch has also set up three funds: disaster relief; aid for the care of children and repair of the damaged property of the Armenian Patriarchate.