07/06/2011, 00.00
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A Syriac church reopens in eastern Turkey after 90 years

In the Adiyaman region, the local Christian community has been able to use a church shut down in Ottoman times. After a legal battle that began nine years ago, they were able to open a metropolitan centre with religious and cultural functions.
Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For the first time since the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Christian Syriac community of Turkey was able to reopen a church, unused in decades, and celebrate the start of activities of a cultural and religious centre belonging to the minority, victim in the past of persecution and genocide like the Greeks and Armenians.

The ceremony was held last Sunday and saw hundreds of Syriacs come from Turkey and abroad. The church named after Saints Peter and Paul (Mor Petrus and Mor Paulus) and the metropolitan centre are located in the eastern province of Adiyaman.

The place of worship was reopened after a long legal battle and much needed repair given the many decades during which it was closed.

“Lots of Christians live in Turkey’s eastern provinces. This metropolitan building will serve their needs first. Moreover, [the building] will also act as a cultural bridge,” said Laki Vingas, a Greek member of the Foundations General Directorate Council.

A consecration ritual was also held prior to the liturgy on Saturday for the Mor Petrus and Mor Paulus Church in accordance with the laws of the ancient Syriac church.

The previous Adiyaman Metropolitan building, with 800 years of history, was abandoned during the First World War and the Christian genocide.

“There are also Armenians besides Syriacs who are members of our metropolitan church. It was quite difficult for us to provide services to locations many kilometres away from the Mardin metropolitan centre,” Melki Ürek said.

The Syriac community appealed to authorities nine years ago for the metropolitan building to be opened, but they were only able to achieve results after fighting a long and uphill legal battle about one and half years ago.

The Syriac community has four autonomous metropolitan centres across Turkey: the Mardin Deyrulumur (Mor Gabriel Monastery) and the Deyr-ul Zafaran in the southeastern province of Mardin, with two more centres in Adiyaman and Istanbul.
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