Istanbul Patriarch leads mass at Sümela Monastery
Istanbul’s Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew led a mass at the historic Sümela Monastery in the Black Sea province of Trabzon on Aug. 15.
Only 110 people were allowed to attend the service on the occasion of the Assumption of Mary due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Gendarmerie units took tight security measures in and around the monastery.
Batholomew thanked President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for efforts for the reopening of the monastery again in 2010 after decades-long hiatus.
During the mass, the Fener Greek Patriarch once again expressed his appreciation to the authorities for returning the icons which had been stolen from historical local churches with a ceremony last week.
The monastery is carved out of rocks in a wooded area on the slope of Mount Karadağ in the Maçka district, 300 meters above the Altındere Valley.
It was included in UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Heritage sites and was reopened for religious practice on Aug. 15, 2010, with the permission of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, following an 88-year hiatus. The country’s most important religious tourism center was closed in 2015 due to a risk of falling rocks from nearby Mount Karadağ.
It was reopened to visitors on July 1 after more than five years of restoration efforts.
Meanwhile, the Greek government criticized Turkey for deporting a Greek citizen who wanted to attend the mass at Sümela.
Daily Milliyet reported that George Varythymiadis was on Turkey’s “persona non grata” list for involving in activities concerning land claims from Turkey. Varythymiadis is the head of the Greek Pontian Federation.
“The Greek citizen, who did not meet the necessary conditions of entry, was denied entry into our country and was sent back to his country following the completion of the process run in compliance with the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and our laws. During the process, he was allowed to get in contact with his consulate,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç said in a statement.