ARMENIAN CHURCH TO CANONISE VICTIMS OF 1915 GENOCIDE IN OTTOMAN EMPIRE ITAR-TASS, Russia September 27, 2013 Friday 05:07 PM GMT+4 HOLY ETCHMIADZIN Armenia, September 27 - Bishops' Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church has reached a decision to canonise 1.5 million people of Armenian ethnicity annihilated in amassed ethnic purges in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 during a campaign that has become widely known as the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian bishops assembled in full force for the first time since 1651. Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan sent a message of greetings to the Council participants where he emphasized the paramount importance of the initiative of the Armenian Church to canonise the genocide victims. "On the eve of the centenary anniversary since the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, all the Armenians say 'no' to the crimes against humanity," the president said. "It is our obligation to our ancestors, to the innocent victims and to the whole mankind in a bid to do everything in our power to avert new genocides in the future." Unlike most other denominations of Eastern Christianity or the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Church has not done any beatifications or canonisations since the 17th century. Besides, the Bishops' Council unified the rite of the sacrament of Baptism in all the Armenian churches, since dioceses practised the Baptism rites differently in their churches. The Ottoman government systematically exterminated its minority Armenian subjects in some provinces of their historic homeland located in the territory, which is incorporated in the present-day Republic of Turkey. Mass purges took place during and after World War I and were implemented by two separate methods -- a sweeping destruction of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children and the elderly on death marches to the Syrian Desert. Various estimates suggest that the resultant loss of lives in the Armenian nation stood at around 1.5 million.