Dormition Liturgy not allowed in Panagia Sumela Monastery

For the second year in a row, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will not be allowed to visit and serve the Divine Liturgy in the ancient Panagia Sumela Monastery on the feast of the Dormition, reports Sedmitza.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople has published a communiqué addressed to all who have inquired about the Divine Liturgy on August 15, the new calendar day of the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, in the inactive Panagia Sumela Monastery in Trebizond, Turkey, where the patriarch celebrated the feast every year from 2010-2015. Turkish authorities did not allow the traditional celebration to take place in 2016, citing the ongoing reconstruction on the monastery grounds.

Turkey allowed the Divine Liturgy to be served on the feast in the monastery for the first time since the nation’s creation in 2010, in an effort to improve the country’s record on religious tolerance and boost tourism. During the service, His All-Holiness stated, “After 88 years, the tears of the Virgin Mary have stopped flowing.” At least 1,500 pilgrims, including people from Greece and Russia, traveled to the Byzantine-era monastery. The service was the first Orthodox Liturgy to be held at the sacred site since 1923.

The site is of particular importance to Pontian Greeks, whose ancestors fled the region around the Black Sea during fighting after World War I and dispersed in Greece and Russia. When Turkey fought Greece between 1920-22 during its War of Independence, several tens of thousands of Pontian Greeks were massacred as they went into forced exodus.

The official explanation given by Turkish authorities for canceling the Divine Liturgy in 2016 was that the service could not proceed due to maintenance and conservation work, although patriarchal sources said at the time that this was merely a pretext by Turkey to permanently ban any future Liturgies from taking place.

The patriarchate’s message states that the Divine Liturgy will not be celebrated in the Church of the Mother of God in Panagia Sumela in Matskua, Trebizond this year, again supposedly due to the restoration which is still underway. The communiqué also notes that the restoration is scheduled to be completed by the feast of the Dormition in August 2018.

Instead of celebrating in the Panagia Sumela Monastery, Pat. Bartholomew will have the opportunity to serve Dormition Liturgy on the ruins of an ancient church in the Monastery of the Theotokos Faneromeni near Artaki. However, the service will not take place until August 23, the day of the leavetaking of the feast of the Dormition.