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Turkish Government Grants Permission to Orthodox Christians to Observe Feastday of Saint Nicholas in Historic Church

The historic fourth century church dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra.

After five long years of constant refusal, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been granted permission by the authorities in Ankara, to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the historic Church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, in Demre, Turkey.

The church's origins date back to the fourth century when Saint Nicholas, a Greek, was the Bishop of the city of Myra, the ancient city which is now known as Demre. Owned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the church was prohibited by the Turkish Government to conduct services or offer prayers. The church was converted into a museum by the State and has been an attraction for guided tours provided by the Turkish Tourism Agency. The structure is currently under renovation and becomes submerged by rain water during the winter and summer months, which damages the mosaics and frescos.

For several years, religious and political authorities have argued over whether the Divine Liturgy should be celebrated there. In a meeting last year, the Ecumenical Patriarch held discussions with the Turkish Minister of Culture, Ertugrul Gunay, in which the Minister said, "I earnestly want every citizen in this country to be able to freely celebrate their own religion in the place seen as most important for worship." Not only did the Minister keep his word, but he also contributed forty-thousand Turkish Lira for the completion of the church's renovation.


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