A new church in Istanbul is the first in 100 years of the Republic: News

A new church in Istanbul is the first in 100 years of the Republic: News

This is the first time in the secular, Muslim-majority Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923, that Christians have welcomed it: a Syriac church is scheduled to open on Sunday in Istanbul, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in attendance.

Saeed Sosin, head of the Assyrian Foundation in Istanbul, expressed his excitement on the eve of the opening to the faithful: “This is the first church built since the founding of the Turkish Republic that will open its doors. We are very happy.” He told AFP.

The St. Ephrem Orthodox Church is located on the European side of the Bosphorus, in the peripheral Yeşilköy region, where the majority of Turkey’s Syriac Christians – others settle in the southeast, not far from the Syrian border – reside. Funded by the community of 17,000 members.

The large white building, located in the middle of a green neighborhood, is designed to accommodate 750 parishioners.

The head of state, who had already laid the first stone during a ceremony in August 2019, ordered the Istanbul municipality to find available land.

A year later, in July 2020, Mr. Erdogan, a devout and conservative Muslim, converted Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque and then requested the conversion of the church of Saint-Sauveur-en-Chora, also built by the Byzantines in the fifth century. Century – which has since remained closed to the public.

The Church of Saint Ephrem was scheduled to open last February, but the opening was postponed due to the strong earthquake that devastated the south of the country, killing at least 50,000 people, and destroying Antioch, ancient Antioch, one of the cradle of Christianity.

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– From Mardin to Damascus –

The Syriac Orthodox pray in Aramaic, an ancient language believed to be the language of Jesus. They existed until 1932 in Mardin, in southeastern Turkey, and their church is headquartered today in Damascus, Syria.

St. Ephrem Church is the first church built in Turkey since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Saeed Sosin recalls.

Over the past century, the existing churches have been restored and other small buildings have been able to accommodate their faithful with great care.

He explained to the state-run Anadolu Agency that this was done “without official permission.” “This is the first time a church has been officially built. It is a source of great pride,” he added, saying he expected many visitors from all over the country and even from abroad.

Members of Turkey’s Christian minorities, who represent 0.2% of the population according to available estimates – the state is secular and does not keep statistics on religion – regularly complain of being treated as second-class citizens in this Muslim-majority country of 82 million people.

After the official opening, the first mass service called “Blessing of the Church” will be held the following Sunday, October 15.

Posted on October 8 at 3:56 a.m., AFP

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