The doors to the main entrance of the newly constructed Armenian Church of the Holy Transfiguration in Moscow were closed on Jan. 6, and Armenian churchgoers who arrived on Christmas night were told by the guard to go home and come back the next day at 10:30 am.
"On Christmas, we went to church; it was midnight. We were told that the church is closed, to go home and come back tomorrow," says Moscow resident Shoushan A., who didn't want her surname published.
According to Shoushan, there were about 50 people near the gates at that time. "We asked to be let in, [but] they didn't allow us inside the church." After Shoushan pleaded extensively with the guard, he allowed her and her family members, and, after more urging, some of the others gathered to enter the church from the back.
"We were quite offended. I said instead of calling us to church, you dismiss us. They said, we have orders from above not to allow anyone to enter the church at 12 am," says Shoushan.
Surprisingly, those gathered outside saw several people inside the church. They believe that most likely there were VIPs among the guests, and other visitors were turned away in order not to bother the special guests.
Diocese of New Nakhichevan and Russia Press Secretary Alvard Nazaryan, in a telephone conversation with Hetq, said the church was indeed closed at 12 ambecause the ceremony was over. The ceremony began at 11 am and the church was open the entire day. "Since the Russian Church has ceremonies at night, they thought our church is also open, and they came at night, at a late hour," she said.
"It's not possible for there to have been people inside because the guards said when the flow of people stopped, they saw people aren't going inside, and they closed [the doors]. The guards are not authorized to close the doors when there are people or priests inside," she added.
Nazaryan stated that the church opens every day in the morning and remains open till late in the evening, but since the church is undergoing construction, and taking into consideration security measures, it is not always open, and the priests are not yet completely serving the church.
"The right thing is to come to church during the liturgy and participate in the sacrament and blessing of the water," she said.