Saturday, February 5, 2011

Russia requests from Turkey to allow the Byzantine Churches to re-open

In the recent meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe in Strasbourg Ivan Savvides, member of the Russian delegation, talked about the spiritual, Byzantine legacy referring especially to the Panayia Soumela monastery in Pontos, Northern Turkey. Mr. Savvides thanked the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul for allowing the Orthodox Church to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the historic Monastery of Panayia Soumela on the 15th of August, 88 years after the last Eucharist took place there.

In a letter sent to the President of Turkey he asks if the Monastery of Panayia Soumela could be brought under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in order to preserve it and to be able to use it as a religious centre, according to Orthodox traditions. He also referred to other churches and monuments which could be given back to the Orthodox Church, and reminded the President of the current unsatisfactory situation concerning the Theological School of Chalki.
If these issues are seriously dealt with by Turkey it will bring close the two people, Orthodox and Muslim, promoting tolerance and acceptance. Abdullah Gul promised Mr. Savvides to examine the issue of cooperation on a dialogue between the two civilizations and religions. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a fruitful and lasting cooperation between the Turkish Government and the Orthodox Church.
The only concern is that this is happening during a time where facts are arising involving the bad restoration project taking place in Agia Sofia, in Constantinople. Due to the bad maintenance and restoration it is believed that many historic mosaics will rot due to humidity, as found by the local Planning Commission. The newspaper Sabah analyses this issue by stating that " Agia Sofia is rotting because they scratched the plaster off". According to this report many mistakes have taken place on the restoration project.

The Department of Foundations a year ago decided to scratch the external plaster off in order to renovate the front of the Church. However many omissions on behalf of the Department will cost massive damages to Agia Sofia.
This for me indicates that it is time for all the Churches to be returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate so the proper measures can be enforced to maintain and preserve these unique and important centres of Orthodoxy.

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