Syriac Catholics celebrate the reconsecration of Mor Ephrem Church in Mardin
Nine decades after it was expropriated, and several changes in use and years of neglect, the monastery is once again a place of worship. Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan led the ceremony. Founded in 1881 and requisitioned during the First World War, the structure was used as barracks and prison. The city is a place of transit and meeting for civilisations.
Mardin (AsiaNews) – The official reopening and reconsecration ceremony of the Syriac Catholic Monastery of Mor Efrem (Saint Ephrem), in Mardin, south-eastern Turkey, was a real community event (see video), coming some 90 years after it was expropriated, shuttered, and then abandoned.
On an official visit to Turkey, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan led the solemn Eucharistic celebration on 13 October, which accompanied the restoration of the structure as a place of worship amid the joy of the faithful of the area.
Taken over by the Turkish government in the early 20th century, the monastery was turned into military barracks during the First World War, becoming later a prison, an orphanage and, finally, a military hospital.
In the early 2000s, a foundation linked to the Syriac Catholic Church managed to get ownership of the building, which by then was being used as a barn.
Many bishops and high-ranking clerics attended the religious service, including Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Marek Solczyński and Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, as well as representatives of Sister Churches like the Syriac Orthodox.
After blessing the altar, the patriarch celebrated the solemn Mass, with readings from the scriptures, songs, and hymns, followed by the entire community gathered inside and outside the building.
In his homily, Patriarch Ignace expressed "deep joy" to all the participants who came "on this historic occasion". He then pointed to a word written in Syriac above the large cross on the altar, which says, "Look at him."
The patriarch then asked the faithful to "always turn their gaze" to Christ on the cross, because "in him we place all our hopes". He ended inviting those present again to place "our trust, our faith in Him" who is love and who “unites us, all”.
The laying of the original foundation stone of the future monastery and church of Mor Efrem dates back to 1881. Three years later, in 1884, construction was completed with the consecration ceremony and its opening for worship.
On 16 February 1916, during the First World War, the Turkish army requisitioned the monastery, returning it two years later at the end of the conflict. But in 1922 it became a military hospital and prison, and later a coal depot and a warehouse.
Because of all the changes over the years, some parts of the structure were demolished, while others were radically altered.
Yet, through careful work, the church was restored in accordance with the original plans thanks to experts and volunteers from the local Christian community, and now it can serve as a place of worship again.
In addition to the monastery, Christian leaders noted the role and importance of the city where it is located, Mardin, which has always been a crossroad for different civilisations and religions.
All the peoples who lived in it in the past did so by benefiting from long periods of peace and coexistence in mutual respect, creating a rich mosaic of religions and cultures, in which differences – of faith, culture, language and race – were extolled and valued.