THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL HAS BEEN GLEANED FROM THE MASS MEDIA OF TURKEY
The Turks say to Greek visitors: “This land is your land.” The fanaticism of the Islamists in Turkey does not allow discussion about religion. But that which it has not succeeded with zembekika and relationships is being affected by the Orthodox Church, since it has become very evident amongst many Turks that their religious roots are based on Orthodox Christianity. This is a reality even though a few Seljuk Turks changed the ethno-religious character of millions of Greeks in Asia Minor, Thrace, Pontus and other places of Turkey when they were forced to accept Islam. Many accepted Islam superficially to save their necks; today Orthodox religiosity is being expressed by their descendants. The cryptochristians make up for the Patriarchate of Constantinople a hidden flock of tragic victims of an autocratic rule of many centuries. These people live everywhere in Turkey, especially in the Pontus area where there are possibly two million of them. Remote churches are functioning again and they are being filled by cryptochristians who receive communion reverently and they fast even from olive oil for five days every week during Great Lent. Graffiti is being written on the walls of the City by young people who say: “We do not want to be Muslims anymore. We want to become Christians.” The Turks say to visiting Greeks: “This land is your land.” Even the guards at museums tell the Greeks not to pay entrance fees because “these museums belong to you.”
The Turks do not consider it a blessing from God that they unjustly stole the land from the Romans (Greeks) and banished them from it. They consider this injustice the reason for their not being able to progress as a people. They understand that they live in a land where all things are Hellenic: the history, the monuments, the cities, the civilization and the most significant of all, they believe that Greek blood flows in their veins. The circumstances that lead to this understanding are many.
In the Church of the Holy Trinity at an intersection in Constantinople, Father Dositheos encounters a young Turkish girl who makes an offering to his church, lights a candle, reverences an icon and then explains to the priest why she did this: “I am fond of what you people do.” Every Friday when the Monastery of the Transfiguration has services, it is filled with many Turks. On the Island of Antigoni, the Turks honor Saint George by giving gifts to the Monastery of olive oil, candles, and money in thanksgiving for the many miracles that the Saint performs. Many Turks virtually stream to one of the forty holy places of the City, one of them in Baloukli, seeking help for the many problems that afflict their lives. For example, on the first day of every month at the Church of the Holy Mother in Befa, hundreds of Turks come to get Holy Water. And on New Year’s Day, this Church is overwhelmed with thousands of worshipers. Every Monday near Hagia Sophia, at the Church of Saint Therapon, a priest continuously reads prayers for Muslims who wish to confess. The Shrine at the cave of Saint Demetrios is filled with crutches and offerings from Turks who have been healed. They attend church services, they ask to receive Holy Communion, they venerate the Cross, and they thank the priest for blessing their sick child. They especially love Saint Nicholas. Of special interest is that a Turkish woman has kept the votive light burning in the Church of the Archangels in Moshoshoninon for fifty years.
The Turkish paper Sampah writes: “The reopening of the Patriarchal School of Halki is a request that is very logical.” The author of the article Tsanar supports the title ecumenical for the Patriarchate which was promulgated at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451 AD. Mr. G. Tzibaoglou writes that the hanging of the Patriarch Gregory V was a fatal mistake. A Turkish bank published a magazine about the Byzantine Empire which contains a message of Saint Basil to the youth. The Turkish Academy of Scientists organized a conference on the world of the Byzantine Empire. The Orthodox churches in Turkey do not pay for electricity as they do in Greece. The churches are exempt. Turkish sources in a study prepared by N. Hiladakis reveals that there is a Monastery of the Pantocrator (Christ the Ruler of All), where the tombs of the Emperors of the Komnenion and the Palaeologian dynasties are located. This area is known as Fatih and it is a center of Muslim fanaticism. It is an area where many Turks light candles and toss money into a tomb in spite of a posted sign that strictly forbids Muslims from doing this.
In this same area there was a Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles. A mosque was built upon the ruins of this church and following a number of renovations, the tomb of Mohammad the Conqueror was opened. This Mohammad had a Christian mother. It was also determined that there is a trap door that leads to an underground room of the old church. This indicates that Mohammad had been buried in an Orthodox Church amongst Byzantine Emperors. There are witnesses that say that at the end of his life, Mohammed had embraced Christianity and that next to his grave were found a Cross and an icon of the Holy Mother. The Church of Hagia Irene which is next to Hagia Sophia was never turned into a mosque. Mohammed allowed it to function as a Christian Church in honor of his Christian mother. All of these issues, at certain times, occupy the Turkish mass media. The periodical Aktoul printed by the newspaper Sampah headlined in one of its issues: “Mohammed the Conqueror was a Christian.” The Weekly Turkish Review of events says: “They are returning to their religious roots.” It also reports that in three years eight million copies of the Gospels were distributed in the Turkish language. It also reported that many Muslims are openly being baptized. These are descendents of Islamized Christians of Greek origin who uncover their Christian roots.
The paper Sampah headlines: “The Church of the Panagia in Constantinople is the last hope for the Turks.” They characterize it as "The Door of Hope, a place of pilgrimage and a place of prayer for the problems that afflict the Turks.” On the first day of every month the Turks gather at this church in great numbers. The fame of the Holy Mother has spread everywhere amongst the Turks and even well-known Turks come to light candles and kiss the hand of an Orthodox priest. They proclaim that is where the House of God is and that is why so many miracles are happening there.
At the Church of the Archangel Michael in Sebastea, it is written in the annals of the lives of the Saints that little fish that swam in the Holy Water used to lick the bodies of the sick and they were miraculously cured. This Church was destroyed in the fifteenth century but today the Holy Water is still there and continues to heal people. This phenomenon attracts many Europeans. The newspaper Star writes: “Turkish girls with head scarves attend the churches, light candles, and make offerings. They even ask for a blessing from the astonished priest. They venerate the icons and ask for the intercessions of the Saints.” All of these things are forbidden by the teachings of Islam. It is observed that there is a return to the Greek Orthodox churches and the holy shrines where the Turks find spiritual refuge. The newspaper Miliet reports that a Turkish mayor celebrated piously the memory of Saint Nektarios in Silyvria along with many Muslims.
During the last few years, the celebration of the Feast of Epiphany has been allowed by the Turkish authorities. The blessing of the waters takes place at the Bosporus and the Cross is thrown into the waters. The Turks are very happy about this happening again because the fishermen thought their catches of fish had become poor because the Romans (Greeks) were no longer throwing the Cross into the Bosporus during the Feast of Epiphany. The Turkish newspapers reported that during this feast a young Turkish girl jumped into the water with all her cloths on in order to retrieve the Cross. She did this with the Christians. She reported to the newspaper that she wanted to honor the feast of the Romans (Greeks) and that she would do it again to receive a blessing. The newspaper Huriyet, a paper with the largest circulation in Turkey, published a few years ago that a Turkish candidate for mayor, who was the leader of an Islamic party, asked for a blessing from the Orthodox Patriarch. He did this while being in attendance at the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Annunciation on the 25th of March. He spoke publicly to the Turkish press about the holiness of the leader of the Orthodox Church and he offered him a rose.
Turkish TV channels regularly show programs about the monastic community of Meteora in Greece, Mistra, Orthodox chanting, and the lives of the Saints etc. They present Turkish iconographers and they report that pilgrims flock to an ancient Christian catacomb outside of Ankara believing that their lives will be blessed by their pilgrimage. They light candles in the area where the Christians used to gather. Outside of Adana, in a catacomb where seven Christians were sanctified, young Turks gather to incense the area. This again is strictly forbidden by Islam. These people believe these areas are holy because many miracles happen there. In Tarsus, the Church of the Apostle Paul has become a place of pilgrimage. Here people light candles, kiss the icons, and drink Holy Water for their health and well-being. They consider all these things to be holy. On the 24th of September, on Princess Island, the people honor Saint George. Tens of thousands of pilgrims come from all parts of Turkey including old people. They walk barefooted from the shore where they land and continue up to the top of the hill where the Church is located. There they join in a festival that is like no other. They make offerings, they tie sweet cookies on the trees, and they wait in endless lines for five hours in order to receive some Holy Water and to have an Orthodox priest bless them with a Cross. They light candles; they embrace the icons believing in the power of the Cross. The Turks even write literary pieces which say: “Constantinople was your name, with your pious people, with your churches, with your monasteries, with your shrines, with your icons, with your monks and angels. You were the capital of an Empire. Constantinople is your name.”
The author of this article says: “Pay attention to what is happening here in Turkey. Let those in Greece who war against the Church take notice."
Source: From the Lesvian newspaper Δημοκράτης December 25, 2008. Translated by Fr. Constantine J. Simones.