Assumption celebrated in Sumela Monastery despite controversy and challenges

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Sumela Monastery's annual Assumption Ceremony, presided over by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos and attended by guests including Trabzonspor footballers, marks its tenth year with diverse attendees, overcoming controversy and political challenges

The Sumela Monastery in Turkey’s Northern Trabzon province held its annual ceremony for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on Tuesday, marking the tenth consecutive year since 2010 that the event has taken place. The ceremony, presided over by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos, saw the participation of esteemed guests, including football players from the city’s football club Trabzonspor. The ceremony drew approximately 350 attendees.

The majority of participants hailed from Greece, with many Orthodox Christians making the journey to the monastery. Attendees from Russia, Georgia, and Turkey also joined the event, creating a diverse gathering of faith. Among the guests were Trabzonspor footballers Anastasios Bakasetas and Dimitrios Kourbelis, who garnered considerable attention upon their arrival at the courtyard of the Sumela Monastery.

The ceremony, which lasted for approximately two hours, featured Patriarch Bartholomeos leading prayers and addressing the congregation in a solemn and spiritual atmosphere.

The Sumela Monastery saw its first ceremony after 88 years of hiatus on August 15, 2010. Subsequent to this revival, the monastery underwent restoration in 2015, allowing for the annual ceremony to be conducted regularly.

However, this year's ceremony took an unexpected turn when Dogan Bekin, a deputy from the New Welfare Party, targeted the ceremony just before the May elections. Bekin alleged that the date of the ceremony, August 15, coincided with the 562nd anniversary of the conquest of Trabzon by the Turks, raising concerns about the timing. Furthermore, Bekin criticized the use of the title "Ecumenical" by Patriarch Bartholomeos, claiming it violated the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne.

Following Bekin's statements, the Good Party also called for the cancellation of the ceremony. Party spokesperson Kursad Zorlu said that the party shared its concerns about the event with relevant authorities and urged the immediate cancellation of the ceremony.

In response to the controversy surrounding the ceremony, Patriarch Bartholomeos expressed his discontent. He questioned the reasons for the hesitation in granting permission for the ceremony.

"Why aren't they granting permission? These are such simple matters... According to our faith, we will go to pray for a few hours and return to our homes. Not even a day, just a few hours," he said.

In light of the eventual approval for the ceremony, Patriarch expressed his gratitude during an evening service at the Santa Maria Church in the monastery.

"We would like to extend our thanks, on behalf of the worldwide Orthodox faithful, to the authorities who allowed us to come to Trabzon and Sumela," he said.

The event signified a continuation of the Orthodox tradition and a testament to the resilience of faith amid political and social challenges.