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Ivan Savvidis: «Another important step for the solution of the problems of the pilgrims to the Orthodox monastery of Panagia Soumela has been made»

The evidence and footage of the incident that took place on August 15, 2009 in Trabzon, Turkey, during the latest pilgrimage trip to Panagia Soumela Monastery were handed over to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin for further investigation.

The meeting of Coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Group on the relations with the Greek Parliament, Russian State Duma MP Ivan Savvidis with Sahin was held on November 22 in Moscow. The Turkish delegation arrived in the Russian capital to attend the meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC).

The issue of the pilgrimage trips of the Orthodox Christians to the holy land of the ancient Greek Trapezounta was brought up three times and dominated in the meeting that covered a broad spectrum of topics and was held in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

During the talks, Ivan Savvidis pointed out that the roots of most Pontian Greeks, who live in Russia today, his as well, are in the ancient Greek city of Trapezounta, today’s Trabzon in Turkey. This is where the holy monastery of Panagia Soumela is located. The pilgrimage trip to the holy land – which is on Turkish territory – is the most important event in the lives of all Orthodox Christians.

Ivan Savvidis and Mehmet Ali Sahin discussed the incident that took place in Trabzon’s airport on August 15, 2009, during the latest pilgrimage trip to the monastery, when the Christian Orthodox priests, who had arrived with a group of pilgrims, were forced to take off their robes and their crosses following a relevant order issued by the local authorities.

Savvidis handed over to Mehmet Ali Sahin the evidence and footage that prove in detail the essence of the painful problem for all the faithful. The Speaker of Turkey’s Grand National Assembly expressed a big interest in the issue.

“I respect all religions on Turkish territory. I promise to carefully investigate all aspects of the incident and the evidence you have presented me with. I will have a response on the issue as soon as possible and I will reply to you personally,” Sahin stated addressing Savvidis.

Turkey’s Grand National Assembly MP from Trabzon, President of the Turkish delegation in PABSEC, who attended the meeting, assured all present that everything that happened on August 15, 2009 was the result of wrong moves on behalf of the local authorities and do not constitute a policy of the Turkish state.

“Today, the issue is under investigation by the ministry of culture and tourism. I am certain that the problem of pilgrimage tourism in Christian sacred places in Turkey will be solved,” he said.

Ivan Savvidis thanked the members of the Turkish delegation for their attention to issues of Orthodox pilgrims in Turkey and stated that the meeting constituted yet another step toward the solution of the problem that will lead to unhindered pilgrimage at the holy monastery of Panagia Soumela. “This step can only fill our hearts with joy and hope,” he said.

Both sides expressed satisfaction with the talks. At the end of the meeting Turkey’s Grand National Assembly Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin and the head of the Turkish delegation in PABSEC invited Savvidis to Trabzon to continue the dialogue on pilgrimage tourism this time on Turkish territory.

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