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First Church To Be Built In Modern Turkey

by | Mon, Jan 16 2023

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The construction of the first church built in modern Turkey is almost complete.

The Mor Efrem Syriac Ancient Orthodox Church is due to open in Istanbul in two months.

The church’s foundation was laid three years ago in a ceremony attended by President Erdogan.

The church will serve around 17,000 Syriac Orthodox believers in the city.

It’s located in an area which is heavily populated by the Assyrian community whose numbers have soared since the Syrian civil war forced many Christians to seek refuge in Turkey.

The Christian Post reports the church’s approval surprised many after the Turkish government seized the last remaining churches in the war-torn southeast of the country.

In October a Syriac monastery in southern Turkey re-opened its doors to believers about 100 years after it was seized by the Turkish army.

Christians have been living in southern Turkey since the first centuries of Christianity.

Many Syriac Christians still speak Neo-Aramaic that descended from the language spoken by Jesus.

In 2020 President Erdogan converted Istanbul’s landmark church-turned-museum, the Hagia Sophia, into a mosque.

Built in 537 AD as a Greek Orthodox church, it was the seat of Eastern Christianity for 900 years before the city was seized in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmed II, who converted it into an Ottoman mosque.

In 1934 modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned worship in the Hagia Sophia and designated it as a museum.

President Erdogan also ordered that another ancient Orthodox church in Istanbul, the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora — also known as the Kariye Museum — be turned into a mosque.