Greek Church blasts Turkey over desecration of Panagia Soumela Monastery



The Permanent Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece expressed its strong protest for the desecration of the sanctuary of the historic Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Pontos after a rave party was held at the site on the basis of permission given by the Turkish authorities, during the time when the Holy Monastery is closed and visits are prohibited due to restoration works and other support works.


A relevant announcement was released today, following images showing a group of dancers and audio and video installations in a music video, in which they appear to be singing and dancing by using the Monastery’s bell.


The Holy Monastery of Panagia Soumela was founded in 386 AD by the Athenian monks Barnabas and Sophronius after the revelation of the Virgin Mary, in order to establish there her miraculous icon, which, according to tradition, is the work of the Evangelist Luke.


Since then this place has been the centre of worship and reference of Pontian Hellenism and as well as pilgrims from all over the world gathered there for fifteen centuries to venerate the holy icon of the Virgin Mary and the other sacred relics kept there. For a century, after the Genocide and the uprooting of the Greeks of Pontus, the Holy Liturgies were banned, but the monastery remains a place of religious and historical character and opens -according to the decision of the Turkish authorities- only for pilgrimage reasons.


As announced stated, the decision of the Turkish institutions to grant to a band the space of the Holy Monastery, which not only belongs to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey and has been designated by it as a UNESCO cultural monument, but has been since 2000 in the provisional list of UNESCO monuments, is an insult and desecration of the character of this religious and historical monument. The excuse of the actors and actors that the video was shot there in order to promote Panagia Soumela as a tourist destination, is considered unacceptable, which is why it provoked the dissatisfaction and strong reactions of even the locals, who love and respect the monument.


“The Permanent Holy Synod of the Church of Greece expresses its disappointment, its strong protest, and its concern about the fact that after the conversion into mosques of the temples of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, Hagia Sophia in Trabzon and the Monastery of Chora, Monastery of Panagia Soumela, and in fact exactly in the place where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated every August 15 by the Ecumenical Patriarch, is another action of the Turkish authorities at the expense of a monument of world cultural heritage.”


This action brutally offends not only the religious feeling of the Greek Pontians but also this international perception of respect and protection of religious and historical monuments from any attempt to alter their character.