Istanbul (Fides Service) – Bitter cold and heavy snowfalls in Istanbul have not affected warm relations among the many different Christian communities in the Turkish capital. The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 17 - 24 January is marked by a serious of well attended meetings and services in an atmosphere of brotherhood and serenity, Father George Marovich, spokesman of the Turkish Bishops’ Conference told Fides. The Conference of Bishops serves about 120,000 Catholics of four different rites, Latin, Chaldean, Armenian and Syrian. Father Marovish said that during the week Catholics are taking part in ecumenical events with Orthodox Christians, members of the Greek, Syrian and Armenian Orthodox Churches.
At the daily evening prayer service at 6pm, hosted by different confessions in turn, Turkish Christians of all denominations reflect and pray side by side on the theme chosen for the Week being followed by Christians the world over “My peace I give you”. “Our numbers are not oceanic, Father Marovich says, but the participation is sincere and considerable progress has been made compared to previous years. The closing service on Saturday 24 January will be at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral presided by the Metropolita”.
“In Turkey – Father Marovich told Fides – Christians are keenly aware that the liturgical and spiritual differences are a richness to be valorised, rather than subjected to the criteria of uniformity. The principle of ‘unity in diversity’ is a daily fact for Christians in Turkey. Despite remaining difficulties, relations among all the different Christians in Turkey are good”.
Turkey’s 66 million people are 98% Muslim. Christians are 0.6%. However it is known that many Christians live their faith undeclared. In Turkey in fact Christians are excluded from careers in parliament or the armed forces.
(PA) (Fides Service 22/1/2004 lines 30 words 349)