Government gives go-ahead for second service at Sümela Monastery

5/8/2011

The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has approved a request by the İstanbul-based Fener Greek Patriarchate for a second service at the Sümela Monastery in the Black Sea coastal province of Trabzon in August, the Doğan news agency reported on Friday.

The ministry reportedly told the patriarchate that a religious service can be held at Sümela in the second half of August and that the date and time would be determined by the Trabzon Governor’s Office.

The monastery was abandoned after the foundation of the Turkish Republic and the subsequent population exchange between Turks and Greeks. It has since become a major tourist destination along Turkey’s Black Sea coast.

The Turkish government last year allowed for an annual church service to be held at the monastery in a gradual loosening of restrictions on religious expression. The government accepted the patriarchate’s request to hold last year’s celebration of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos on Aug. 15 at Sümela Monastery. The service at the monastery was officiated by İstanbul-based Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew. Pilgrims from Greece, Russia, Georgia and other countries traveled to the monastery, which currently serves as a museum.

Around 500 pilgrims were admitted to the monastery during the service, and the remaining participants watched the event on large screens set up outside Sümela. After the completion of the service, Bartholomew offered his thanks to the Ministry of Culture for its efforts to open the monastery for an annual service. He said the opening of the doors of the monastery for the religious ceremony was an act of courtesy on the part of the Turkish government.

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