June 9, 2010

Patriarch To Celebrate Divine Liturgy At Soumela

The Orthodox Liturgy is to be celebrated at the Monastery of Soumela for the first time since the early 1920s.

Writing in today’s Apoyevmatini (Greek newspaper published in Istanbul), Nicholas Manginas reports that Ertuğrul Günay, Minister of Culture and Tourism, told Patriarch Bartholomew on Monday evening (7th June) that the government had approved the Patriarch’s request to celebrate the Liturgy at the Monastery of Soumela – now a museum - once a year on 15th August (the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God). Günay and the Patriarch were both attending a concert in the Hagia Eirene (Saint Irene's). An official document was received at the Patriarchate the following day confirming the decision.

According to Manginas, the Patriarchate was told that those attending the Liturgy will be required to pay particular attention to ensuring there is no damage to the monument, and particularly to the frescoes. Manginas also writes that the Mayor of Maçka (the nearest town to the monastery and the centre of the ilçe - sub-province – in which Soumela is situated) had visited Patriarch Bartholomew a few weeks ago and invited him to visit the town. The service on the 15th August will be the first time the Liturgy has been celebrated at the monastery since the exchange of populations.

In recent years, the Ecumenical Patriarch and other senior clergy have been celebrating the Liturgy in churches around Anatolia, usually on their patronal feasts. This has not yet happened at the Monastery at Soumela. Last August, a copy of the icon of the Panagia Soumela was brought to the region from the new Monastery of Panagia Soumela in western (Greek) Macedonia where the original icon from Soumela is now kept. A group of worshippers from Greece and from parts of the former Soviet Union attempted to hold a service at the monastery, but were prevented from doing so by the Director of the Museum. They were eventually asked to vacate the area. As a museum, the Soumela monastery is under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

(The concert which the Patriarch and the Minister were attending, part of this year’s Istanbul Music Festival, was a performance by the Borusan İstanbul Philharmonic Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir of religious music by the Orthodox Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.)

Nicholas Manginas travels with Patriarch Bartholomew and regularly writes on and photographs his activities.

See also here and here.

Metropolitan Paul of Drama, who is the only hierarch in Greece with Pontic origins, was in tears when he heard the news for the upcoming Divine Liturgy. He called the event "an offering to the Christians of the Black Sea". Read more here.