World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey's Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I at mass at a church on Sunday said major changes in Turkey in terms of minority rights have paved the way for "previously unimaginable" religious services in the ancient churches of the Orthodox Christian community.
The annual mass attended by an Orthodox Christian community was held in Timio Stavru, a Byzantine-era church in a village in the central Turkish province of Nevsehir's Urgup district, where a considerable Greek population lived in the 19th century.
The Patriarch delivered a sermon in Turkish and Greek where Lawmakers from Greece, the Turkish ambassador to Athens, Greek businesspeople and artists also attended.
Bartholomew thanked Turkish authorities for allowing them to pray in the ancient church, which has been closed for years. "We have been praying here since 1999. It was impossible to hold a service here or in other (ancient) churches in Turkey two decades ago. But today, we live in a new Turkey and are pleased to see many things have changed. We are grateful to God and our state," he said. Bartholomew also congratulated Muslims' upcoming holy month of Ramadan.
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, which came to power in 2002, seeks to restore the rights of those non-Muslim minorities who have been treated as second class citiznes. Along with the Greek Orthodox community, the Armenian community was also allowed to hold masses in restored churches in an unprecedented move by the government.Last Mod: 23 Haziran 2014, 12:06