Orthodox Christians flock to once-banned holy site in Turkey
(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: Ecumenical Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew (centre) at Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, celebrated the divine liturgy to mark the feast day of the Virgin Mary. The faithful believe Jesus’s mother Mary was taken up to heaven on Aug. 15 after her death, or dormition in Orthodox theology.
“This monastery is the bequest of a civilisation that had a culture of living together. Let’s ensure this bequest survives so the pain does not recur,” said Bartholomew.