First mass in 93 years held in İzmir’s historic Greek Church
İZMİR - Doğan News Agency
CİHAN PhotoThe Agios Konstantinos Greek Church in the western province of İzmir has reopened following renovations and held a mass for first time in 93 years, with the participation of the Fener Greek Patriarchate.
The historic church, dating back to the 19th century, located on Mermerli Street in the Menemen district in İzmir, was renovated by the Menemen municipality.
Fener Greek Patriarchate Bartholomew and Menemen Mayor Tahir Şahin reopened the church with a ceremony where they threw white doves and planted an olive tree in the garden as symbols of peace.
‘Right to worship indispensable for religion’
Bartholomew, who performed the first mass in the historic church since 1922, thanked the municipality and Menemen locals for the renovation of the church. Şahin welcomed him at the garden of the church with flowers ahead of the mass. Bartholomew said the Agios Konstantinos Church will add to the already rich culture of İzmir.
“An indispensable part of the right to religion is the right to worship. We believe that people from all religions should be able to properly perform their worship. Our stance on this issue can be defined as: what we want for the Christian community, we want for the Muslims as well,” said Bartholomew, adding he had prayed for peace, wealth and fertility for Turkey and the world.
The Greek consulate general in İzmir, Theodore Tsakiris, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Menemen District head Hürol Taklak, civil society members, village headmen and members of the Orthodox community in İzmir and Istanbul were also present at the ceremony. The opening of the church began with the Menemen municipal band playing the Turkish and Greek anthems and Menemen’s folklore group performing a dance.
Şahin, who has been the mayor of Menemen for 16 years, said during the ceremony that humanity comes first.
“The religion, sect or ethnicity of people is not important for us. We care for humans first. There has to be holy places where people can perform their religious worshipping freely. Everyone knows about me. We built Cemevis [worship houses for Alevis], mosques and minarets. We also renovated beautiful places such as this church,” said Şahin.
Following cocktails in the garden of the church, Bartholomew visited Şahin in his office, where he gave him presents, including a holy book, a rosary and coffee. Şahin also gave gifts to Bartholomew, including a vase made of soil with ornaments of a dove and an olive branch. Bartholomew also visited the historical Taşhan Market in Menemen and attended a dinner held by the municipality in his honor.
The news came after a ruined Hagia Sophia dating back to the 12th century in the western border province of Edirne will be renovated as a mosque, despite former statements made about the possibility of restoring it as a museum.
Following the conversion of two Hagia Sophia into museums, which were initially built as churches and then turned into mosques and museums, the third Hagia Sophia in Enez will be reconverted into a mosque.