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Greece Blasts Turkey Over Panagia Soumela “Desecration”

Greece Turkey Panagia Soumela
Nestled in a steep cliff at an altitude of about 1,200 meters (3,900 feet), Panagia Soumela is a site of great historical and cultural significance. Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen , CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia Commons

Greece and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew blasted Turkey on Tuesday over the “desecration” of the Panagia Soumela Monastery which was turned into a nightclub for an advertising video clip.

The controversial video clip, with a DJ playing loud electronic music in the courtyard of the historic monastery and people dancing, had many Orthodox Christians reacting in anger.

Bartholomew described the incident as “sacrilege” in a letter of protest sent to Nuri Ersoy, Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism.

“Panagia Soumela of Trabzon is a most hallowed sanctuary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the Romeosyne of Pontos, but also a monument of global religious and cultural heritage,” Bartholomew says.

“It is known that the ancient Soumela Monastery today functions as a museum, with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey bearing the responsibility of its sound management and protection in every respect,” the Ecumenical Patriarch adds.

Greece upset at the desecration of Panagia Soumela

Greece’s President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, also stated that images showing a band dancing to electronic music at the Panagia Soumela monastery in Turkey were “a desecration” of the monument.

Sakellaropoulou also expressed her shock at the incident on Tuesday during the opening night of an exhibition at the Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens.

One of the icons on display at the exhibition was that of Panagia Soumela and Sakellaropoulou said she needed to single it out due to the “the recent desecration of this World Heritage Site.”

The Panagia Soumela icon is one “that Hellenism, especially Pontic Hellenism, considers an integral part of its identity, as it depicts the Mother of God, their guide and protector in the painful experience of uprooting and refugeedom,” the President added.

Greece’s foreign ministry called on Turkish authorities “to do their utmost to prevent such acts from being repeated” and to respect the site, a candidate for UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

The iconic Greek Orthodox monastery in Trabzon, Turkey is a tourist attraction where each year on August 15 the service for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is held by the Ecumenical Patriarch.


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