Greek group performs ritual in Turkish hotel after church permission denied

Greek group performs ritual in Turkish hotel after church permission denied

A 400-person group of Greeks performed a religious ceremony in a hotel, after permission was not granted to conduct a church service at the Taxiarchis Church in the Aegean province of Balıkesir’s Ayvalık district.

The Fener Greek Patriarchate in Istanbul wanted to organize a church service on Sept. 29 at the church, which has been converted into a museum. The Patriarchate requested permission from the office of the Balıkesir Governor on April 15. The governor’s office forwarded the application to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, and the answer that the Greek community had been awaiting for six months arrived three days before the planned service. The request was rejected.

Nevertheless, the group did not cancel its trip and still traveled to Ayvalık, due to the fact that church services in other parts of Anatolia have been granted permission at the last minute in the past. The majority of the group consisted of Greeks descended from those who migrated from Ayvalık to Greece in the last century. In 2000, Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew had conducted a church service in the same historic museum-church.

The permission was rejected on the evening of Sept. 26 and Patriarch Bartholomeos decided not to go to Ayvalık after the decision. The 400-person group decided to hold the ceremony in the hall of a local hotel before returning home.

Permission has previously been granted to conduct ceremonies at churches in Bursa, Trabzon and Cappadocia.

The Taxiarchis Church was built in 1844. Its bell was later discovered to be the largest church bell in the world, and is now being exhibited at the Bergama Museum in Berlin.