Vartholomeos denounces desecration of Panagia Soumela, Greek president ‘shocked’


Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos has sent a letter to Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy denouncing the ministry’s move to desecrate one of Eastern Orthodoxy’s most sacred shrines, the monastery of Soumela in Trebizond, Turkey, by granting permission to film a television ad with frenzied young people dancing as a DJ on screenplays music.

In his letter, the patriarch denounces the desecration.

“The Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Trebizond, a most sacred shrine of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the Greeks of Pontus, but also a monument of world religious and cultural heritage, was offered for purposes that do not befit its religious character and history,” Vartholomeos wrote.

The Soumela Monastery is currently a museum under the jurisdiction of Turkey’s ministry of culture and tourism, which is responsible for its proper management and protection.

In 1998, the Greek Parliament recognised the genocide of the Pontic Greek population carried out by the Turks and made 19 May a day of commemoration.

The Panaghia [Virgin Mary] Soumela icon was taken to Greece when Pontian Greeks fled and are viewed as a national symbol.

Years ago, on New Year’s Eve, a similar incident occurred involving Hagia Sophia, one of the greatest cathedrals of Christendom and then a museum, and Vartholomeos sent a strong complaint to the then competent minister, who revoked the permission he had granted.

President Katerina Sakellaropoulou has expressed her shock at the “desecration” of the World Cultural Monument of Panagia Sumela in Turkey in the wake of footage showing a DJ playing electronic music at the historic monastery in the mountainous Trabzon region.

Inaugurating the exhibition “For Faith and Homeland: The Contribution of the Church to the Struggle of 1821,” at the Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens on Tuesday, Sakellaropoulou described the museum as a place of art and memory, an ark not only for simple artifacts religious faith but also national symbols.

One of those symbols was the icon of the Panagia Sumela, which she said she needed to single out due to the “the recent desecration of this World Heritage Site.”

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The Panagia Sumela icon is one “that Hellenism, especially Pontic Hellenism, considers an integral part of its identity, as it depicts the Mother of God, their guide and protector in the painful experience of uprooting and refugeedom,” the president said.