|Panagia Soumela Monastery|
The Turkish government's decision to allow the Orthodox patriarch to celebrate a liturgy at the ancient Panagia Soumela Monastery near Trabzon was a sign of hope for all members of Turkey's Christian minority, said a U.S. Jesuit priest.
"The present government has promised they really will pay attention to the needs of the Christian minority; the Christians have said we want concrete signs, so this is a positive step in the right direction," Jesuit Father Thomas Michel, who lives and works in Ankara, the Turkish capital, told Catholic News Service.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople celebrated the Orthodox liturgy for the feast of the Dormition of Mary Aug. 15 at the Panagia Soumela Monastery, which was founded in 386. The current building, which is maintained by the government as a museum, dates from the 13th century. It was closed in 1923 after most Greeks were forced out of Turkey and most Turks were forced out of Greece under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne. Father Michel, who has ministered in Trabzon, where an Italian priest was murdered in 2006, said the Panagia Soumela Monastery "is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's in a pine forest with waterfalls and the monastery is perched on a cliff."
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