Preparations continue for the opening of the Saint Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church on Sunday, the foundation stone of which was laid in a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2019, as it is the first church built during the era of the Turkish Republic.
Regarding the opening of the church near the Latin Catholic cemetery in the Yeşilköy area of Istanbul, Saeed Sosin, head of the Syriac Orthodox Endowment in Istanbul, said: “We are very excited about the church opening.”
He explained: “We were going to open the church on February 19, but because of the earthquake, we postponed the opening. It was a great pain for the country. It was not right for us to open the church in such an atmosphere.”
He added: “Then came the month of Ramadan, and then the holidays, when the opening was postponed until next Sunday. President Erdogan will honor us at the opening ceremony. We are excited, happy, and very cheerful.”
He pointed out that all Syriacs around the world are following the opening of the church with great enthusiasm, and that there are those who want to attend to participate in the opening ceremony.
He added: “Our phones do not stop ringing, and this is also a great prestige for our country, and it is also a good message for our country regarding prejudices abroad. I hope that the opening of the church will be good for our country, for us, and for everyone. I hope that our prayers here will be a means of increasing the unity and solidarity of our country.”
Sosin said that there will be a representative of the Patriarchate and a wide participation from inside and outside the opening, and he indicated that the church has a capacity of 750 people who can sit and worship in it at the same time.
He pointed out that they do not have a second church for the Syriac community in Istanbul except the Tarla Bashi Church in the Beyoglu area in central Istanbul, indicating that the majority of the members of the sect live in the Yeşilköy area and that the new church will largely meet their needs.
The church was built next to the ancient Latin Catholic cemetery in Yeşilköy and has an area of 700 square meters, while the structure of the church bell tower was inspired by the Syriac monasteries located in the state of Mardin, southeastern Turkey.
One of its five floors has been designated as a cultural hall that brings together worshipers after Mass, as well as for celebrations that will be held in the church, such as baptism rituals, condolences, and weddings, in addition to meetings and conferences.
As for the ground floor of the church, religious rituals will be held and it contains the bishopric’s residence, guest rooms, and a parking garage.
The number of Syriacs in Istanbul is estimated at about 17 thousand people, the majority of whom live in the Yeşilköy area in the European side of Istanbul.