February 8, 2022

Outrage Over Blasphemous Use of the Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Trebizond

Outrage has spread throughout the Orthodox Christian world over the blasphemous use of the Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Matsouka of Pontus, after a video clip has emerged showing the filming of an advertisement with foreign actors and a dj depicting a disco party on its sacred grounds, at the very spot the Divine Liturgy takes places on August 15th, even making use of the bell of the monastery in an inappropriate manner.

The images are an insult to Orthodox Christians everywhere, but also to believers of any religion in general, since no one would want such a sacred space used in this way, especially a sacred space that was forced to be abandoned by the local government in the 1920's due to racial and religious discrimination and has only recently been allowed to function again at certain times and with permission as it was meant to be.

Despite the fact that the monastery has belonged to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey for years and has been designated as a "cultural monument", many locals expressed their dissatisfaction with these images at a moment when Panagia Soumela is not even accessible to the average citizen.

If this were done in an important Muslim shrine, the outrage would come with severe consequences.

The uproar that has erupted was commented on by the President of the Trabzon Association of Tour Operators (T√úRSAB), Volkan Kandarci, who tried to calm the spirits of the locals and those abroad offended by these images. As he stated to the Turkish media, the legislation allows the holding of such events in Panagia Soumela and this specific one was done with the permission of the provincial administration.

"I hope that the video clip will show the natural beauties of the area and will be successful," said Volkan Kandarci.

Earlier this month, Turkish media outlets reported that Panagia Soumela would be accessible to the public in May, and allowing such advertisements is done in hopes of bringing tourists to the area.

Meanwhile, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent to the Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, a letter of protest for the insulting "of the Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Panagia Soumela of Trabizond", which is "a monument of universal inheritance for religion and civilization," according to the visual material circulating on the internet, for purposes that are not in line with its religious character and history.

The ancient Soumela Monastery today functions as a museum, with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey bearing the responsibility of its good management and protection in every respect.