Reuters blog archive
(Photo: Orthodox Christians at Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)
Europe Papadopolous's grandparents were children when they fled their village in northeast Turkey and settled in Greece almost 90 years ago, yet she still felt she was in exile.
Papadopolous, 45, was one of thousands of Orthodox faithful who journeyed to Sumela Monastery, built into a sheer cliff above the Black Sea forest, on Sunday to attend the first mass here since ethnic Greeks were expelled in 1923. (Photo: Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)
"Being apart from this place feels like Ulysses: always searching for your home," Papadopolous said, tears streaming down her face and adding that even though her grandparents are dead, she was sure they could see her "homecoming."
The historic service is part of a broader easing of religious restrictions in Muslim Turkey as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan seeks to fulfill pledges to expand minority rights, which could also kickstart Turkey's stalled European Union bid.
(Photo: Orthodox Christian nuns stand in the muddy Jordan River with two pilgrims at the Qasir al-Yahud baptismal site near the West Bank city of Jericho, March 31, 2010/Darren Whiteside)
Christian pilgrims alarmed by claims that baptism in the River Jordan could make them sick are being urgently reassured by Israeli officials that the water poses no health risk.
Water quality tests published this week counter allegations by environmentalist group Friends of the Earth that the level of coliform bacteria from sewage in the river is too high for safe bathing, Eli Dror of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said.
President Dmitry Medvedev warmly welcomed the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians Tuesday, hailing improving ties between Russia's powerful church and its ancestor faith. Relations among the Orthodox have improved after past strains when churches in former Soviet states such as Estonia and Ukraine broke away from the Russian mother church and tried to pledge allegiance to the patriarch in Istanbul.
"We view with alarm the dangerous consequences of disregard for the survival of God's creation," His All Holiness told a gathering at Georgetown University after his White House meeting.