“We have started discussions on reopening the Church of Panagia Sumela. The faithful must be given the opportunity to visit (the church) for service in every Christian Orthodox celebration”, – stated the Member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, President of the Federation of Greek Communities in Russia, Ivan Savvidis in a Press Conference which took place after the Divine Liturgy held at the Monastery on August 15th 2010.
The first Divine Liturgy at the Byzantine Church of Panagia Sumela in the city of Matska in Trabzon was officiated by the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew. The Divine Liturgy on the Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was held in two languages, ancient Greek and Church Slavonic, with the participation of representatives from the three Orthodox Churches of Constantinople, Russia and Greece. This year the celebration coincides with the Muslim month of Ramadan.
The service was attended by around 600 pilgrims from various countries of the world. Over 4000 pilgrims, amongst which a delegation of 500 pilgrims from the former USSR countries (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus) visited the monastery on this festive day.
The initiator and one of the basic organizers of this event is the Federation of Greek Communities of Russia, whose chairman is the Member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Ivan Savvidis.
The official authorization for the Divina Liturgy at the Monastery was granted on May 13th 2010 with the active participation of government members from Turkey, Greece, Russia and the administration of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Russian and Greek Orthodox Church.
The historical Byzantine Monastery of Panagia Sumela is considered as a symbol of Hellenism and is the most important sanctuary for hundreds of thousands Greeks of Pontus who were forced to leave their historic homelands and were scattered worldwide (today in Russia, there are around 100.000 Pontian Greeks).
The Liturgy at the Monastery of Panagia Sumela which operates today as a museum, as all orthodox churches in Turkey, became somehow the precedent and first step towards an open dialogue of religions.
After the end of the liturgy the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew said “Our prayers are directed towards solidarity and peace. We travelled here on this purpose”.
Today’s event is very important, noted Bishop Tikhon of Podolsk, – “the Divine Liturgy mystery took place, the heart of every Christian is content, whether Greek, Russian, Georgian, Abkhazian or Ossetian”.
“We have no objections that the orthodox liturgy was held during the holy month of the Ramadan for the Muslims – stated in a press conference the Mayor of Macka, Erdogul Genc – For us, the Ramaddan is a symbol for tolerance and mutual help. Today’s event is a prime example of cooperation between different religions”.
Today we are making a new page in the history of the Christian world, – noted Ivan Savvidis at the Press Conference. The era of religious wars is long gone, the era of compromise, seeking and reaching solutions has come, the realization of which must lead to the spiritual foundation of man. High morale is very important for both the Islamic and Orthodox world.
Coordinated cooperation of entirely different people, faithful and non, Christians and Muslims, Turkish Greeks and Russians is the most important result from this event. It became clear that the idea of celebrating Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of Panagia Sumela was sent to us by God himself and we chose the right path”.