Syriac church in southeastern Turkey granted renovation permit

adiyaman-assyrian-orthodox-metropolitan-church-granted-renovation-permit-2010-06-30_l1.jpgISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Thanks to efforts launched by Syriac Metropolitan Melki Ürek, the Syriac Metropolitan Church in the southeastern province of Adıyaman receives permission for renovations following some legal amendments. The Syriac community in Turkey held its traditional mass in Adıyaman on Wednesday
The Syriac Metropolitan Church in the southeastern province of Adıyaman has been granted permission to conduct renovations after many years of difficulties thanks to recent modifications to the law on foundations, according to Syriac Metropolitan Melki Ürek.
The metropolitan was appointed to his post in 2006 and soon thereafter initiated a series of efforts to renovate the dilapidated Mor Petrus and Mor Paulus Church, which is the only church in southeastern Anatolia used by all Christian communities living in the nearby vicinity.
Ürek began the legal struggle by first applying to the Adana and then the Şanlıurfa councils of monuments.
“I finally got the first renovation permission from the Adana council of monuments,” Ürek told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “It involved maintenance and repairs on the interior and the bell tower. Our second request was about reinforcing the structure, for which we received permission from Şanlıurfa regional Directorate of Council of Monuments. Within six months the renovation will be complete.”
The process likely took so long because of the former regulations, he said, adding that thanks to law No. 5737, a 2008 article that regulates religious foundations, many problems regarding non-Muslim congregations have now been solved.
Ürek said he truly believed in the genuineness of the governments’ efforts under the auspices of the democratic initiative. “EU Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış very frequently meets with representatives of religious congregations and listens to their problems with the purpose of solving them.”
Asked whether he agreed that Syriacs kept a low profile compared to other minority groups that hit headlines frequently with their issues, Ãœrek said their congregation shared all their problems with the state.
“We do not whine but look for solutions to our problems within the legal framework,” he said. “We have all the doors open to us.”
The metropolitan, meanwhile, said the frequent media stories about the homecoming of Syriacs to Mardin were exaggerated and that the true number of returnees was not nearly as high as the media’s claims. Many Syriacs left the southeastern province in previous decades for Europe and other destinations.
“[Nonetheless] it is their country; they can come back whenever they want to,” he said. “What is so unusual about that? I find these stories repulsive.”
The Syriac congregation has seven foundations in Turkey, most of which are in Mardin. According to figures provided by Ãœrek, there are currently 25,000 Syriacs living in Turkey, 17,000 of whom live in Istanbul with the rest scattered in the eastern and southeastern provinces.
Syriac community holds traditional mass in Adıyaman
The Syriac community in Turkey held its traditional mass in Adıyaman on Wednesday. The 12th Great Mass of the Ancient Syriac Community took place at the Mor Petrus and Mor Paulus Church with the participation of hundreds of Syriacs from Turkey and elsewhere.
“We are praying for love, affection and brotherhood, and we are people living here in peace, and we are as a whole,” Ãœrek said during the mass.
Ürek said Saint Peter and Saint Paul, for whom the church was named, were two very important apostles of Jesus. “Their lives, spirits and philosophies set an example for us and make us think about how we live our own lives,” he said.

CORRECTION: Syriac is the Daily News’ preferred translation for the Syriac Orthodox Church and the paper’s preferred name for the people. An earlier version of this story mistranslated the names. The Daily News regrets the error.