Hundreds of pilgrims responded to an invitation by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to attend a liturgy held at the Soumela monastery in Trabzon,Turkey on Aug. 15 to mark the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.
The church service was also officiated by two Bishops, Iezekiel (from the church in Australia) and George (from the church in Poland), the Athens News Agency reported.
It is the fifth year in a row that the liturgy has taken place at the historic monastery, which ceased operation following the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923.
“For the Christians, (the Soumela monastery) never ceased to be the house of God and a gate to heaven,” Bartholomew said at the event. “That is why it has attracted the faithful through the aeons from west and east. That is why we are today at its hallowed courtyards, even though it has no abbot or monks to welcome us, no church bells to ring and echo in the surrounding mountains.”
The difficult conditions that were endured by church followers in the past when they protected their faith are being experienced by hundreds of thousands of Christians in similar circumstances at present, he added, mentioning the Middle East and Africa.
Addressing his remarks to anyone speaking on behalf of religion, Bartholomew said, “Let us not destroy our world and this geography.”
The ceremony was broadcast by state television NERIT.