Peace marks historic mass at Trabzon's Sumela Monastery
A historic mass at the Sumela Monastery in the Black Sea coastal province of Trabzon – a first in republican history – took place yesterday. Some 3,000 Orthodox Christians gathered for the mass at the ancient monastery early in the day, which came after the government allowed a church service to be held there once a year in a gradual loosening of restrictions on religious expression. The mass was officiated by Istanbul-based Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew. Pilgrims from Greece, Russia, Georgia and other countries traveled to the monastery, which currently serves as a museum. Around 500 pilgrims were admitted to the monastery during the mass, and the remaining participants watched the event from large screens set up outside Sumela. After the ceremony, Bartholomew gave thanks to the Culture Ministry for opening the monastery's doors for the mass, calling this an act of courtesy on the part of the Turkish government. "We owe this day of worship to our government, which was kind enough to give us permission," he said. "We are most thankful as this day, the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, is sacred not only for believers in the Black Sea region but also for the entire Orthodox and Christian world. We are blessed to celebrate this day here at Sumela." Bartholomew also expressed the will of Turkey's Christian population to coexist with Muslim Turks. "The culture of coexistence is a legacy bequeathed to us," he explained. "Let us make this legacy live and pass it on to younger generations so that no one suffers from problems linked to coexistence. I hope peace and happiness will dominate the Middle East and Caucasus." He also wished the Muslim world a happy Ramadan, saying, "I hope all Muslims will observe this month with peace, patience and worship."