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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Patriarch Bartholomew calls for peace in Middle East


Ecumenical Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew, who officiated this year's Mother Mary service in Trabzon's Sümela Monastery on Friday, called for peace in the Middle East.

During the service, Bartholomew said: “From this holy place, we are addressing the political parties and especially the religious leaders. Let us not maul our world and this region. Let's know each other better and love each other. Let us sacrifice and compromise. Young people, families, mothers and fathers should not suffer or cry anymore."

Also congratulating President-elect and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the ecumenical patriarch wished Erdoğan success in his new post.

In the service, which was attended by 500 people, carols were sung and prayers read. Following the service, Bartholomew delivered two speeches, in Greek and in Turkish. He thanked the people of the Black Sea region for welcoming the service.

Bartholomew said: “This rare summit in Maçka [a district of Trabzon province] unites the prayers of Turks, Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Georgians and millions of Orthodox people. The ancestors of our church went through difficult times to preserve their belief. Today, hundreds of thousands of Christians experience similar conditions. The escalating religious and sectarian strife in the Middle East and Africa is now threatening humanity. Though able to find solutions to economic problems, humans fail in the fields of religion and belief."

Urging people to embrace the differences between each other, the ecumenical patriarch said the Mother Mary service also included prayers for those displaced and suffering in Turkey's neighboring countries.

Following Bartholomew's speech, blessed bread and wine was distributed through the congregation.

The first of the Mother Mary services was held with a permit from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2010 on Aug. 15, which is believed by Christians to be the anniversary of the day the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven.

Bartholomew has been known for his efforts for reopening of the Greek Orthodox Halki (Heybeliada) Seminary in İstanbul, a demand long pursued by Turkey's Greek community. The only school where the Greek minority in Turkey used to educate its clergymen was established in 1844 on the island of Heybeliada off İstanbul and was closed in 1971 after a law that placed religious and military training under state control. 

The EU and US frequently criticize Turkey for not reopening the Halki Seminary, a decision that experts say is related to Turkey's interpretation of secularism. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)

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