ASIA/TURKEY - A 4th century church put up for sale as a tourist hostel

Friday, 30 October 2020 middle east   oriental churches   holy places   political islam  

Mardin (Agenzia Fides) - The Syrian Orthodox church of Mor Yuhanon (St. John), which dates back to the 4th century in a suburb of the Turkish city of Mardin, has been put up for sale and could be used for tourist accommodation in the future. The church, currently privately owned, was put on the real estate market at a price of 7.25 million Turkish lira (approximately 870 thousand dollars).
The church - local sources said - was recognized as a cultural asset by the Turkish authorities in 2009 and contains the tombs of two Syrian Orthodox Patriarchs. The owners, who have used the spaces of the church as a warehouse in the last two years, were therefore not allowed to make any architectural changes to the structure, but have the right to sell. Saliba Özmen, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Mardin and Diyarbakir, called on the Turkish authorities to take the appropriate steps to entrust the Church to the Syrian Orthodox Foundation, which also includes the Monastery of Deyr al Zafaran, the so-called "Saffron Monastery", located near the city of Mardin, on the Tur Abdin plateau.
The church's owners tried to put the building up for sale in 2015. Most recently, they had offered the former place of worship to the local leaders of the Syrian Orthodox Church for sale, who replied that they did not have financial resources available to invest in the purchase.
The history of Mor Yuhanon Church in Mardin reflects the sad fate of the immense historical and spiritual legacy that affects many ancient churches in Turkey, whose property rights have been acquired by private individuals over the centuries or have become the property of the Turkish State.
Meanwhile, in Istanbul in the last few days the frescoes of the monumental Church of the Savior in Chora had already been covered with white cloths to prepare the place, considered one of the most important examples of Byzantine architecture, to be used as a mosque and to host again Islamic collective rites and prayers, according to the provisions of the Turkish government.
The resumption of Islamic celebrations in the spaces of the former Christian monastery had been scheduled for today, Friday, October 30th, but has been postponed to a later date by the Turkish Authority for Religious Affairs. This is to serve to make the place suitable for the use by the Muslim community. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 30/10/2020)