Turkey’s Orthodox Christian community, mostly made up of Greek and Armenian Turkish nationals, observed Easter Sunday in the early hours of the day with religious services.
In Istanbul, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Fener, which has millions worldwide among its congregation, held an Easter Mass led by Patriarch Bartholomew at Aya Yorgi Church.
Patriarch Bartholomew wished peace for Ukraine and the world during his sermon. The war in Ukraine weighed on traditional midnight sermons for many Orthodox Christians as they celebrated Easter early on Sunday, but the holiday was still marked around the world, even in war-torn Ukraine and Russia. “We feel the pain, it tears our hearts apart,” Bartholomew said.
Theodore II, the current Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, found clearer words: “Although God has shown people the way to peace, they remain divided by enmities and disputes” , he said. “Humanity has been embroiled in wars that have flooded the earth with blood. We live this picture clearly today when we see with sadness how our brothers in faith are killing each other in Ukraine,” he said. he adds.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a traditional Easter service in Moscow early on Sunday, presenting Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill with an ornate Easter egg in keeping with tradition, the official Tass news agency reported. Kirill has always supported Putin’s policies. He also blamed the West for the war in Ukraine. Traditional Orthodox midnight services in Ukraine have been banned due to a curfew imposed over the Orthodox Easter weekend, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reminded citizens in his daily address on Saturday evening. People were allowed to attend mass from 5 a.m. on Sundays.
During the ceremony in the garden of the Patriarchate of Istanbul at midnight local time, the lights of the Patriarchate and the church were turned off and the bells rang. Afterwards, the participants joined in the mass and lit candles which symbolize the resurrection of Jesus in Christian belief.
A crowded service was also held in Hatay, a province in southern Turkey, one of the few in Anatolia to be home to a multi-faith population. The faithful gathered at the Orthodox Church in Antakya for the mass led by spiritual leaders Jan Dellüler and Dimitri Doğum. The service was followed by a light show in the church courtyard and confetti was sprinkled on worshippers. In the Samandağ district of Hatay, St. Ilyas Church was the center of the celebrations. Mass was followed by fireworks outside the church and worshipers tapped Easter eggs as part of tradition.
In Mardin, the Syriac community celebrated Easter Sunday at Mor Şarbel Church in Midyat district, the historic home of the community, which adheres to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Worshipers of all ages lit candles and said prayers as the church service kicked off in the early hours of Sunday, followed by choirs of girls and boys singing hymns. After the service, people exchanged greetings and Easter sweets, sweet Easter bread called “Paskalya çöreği” and red-painted Easter eggs.
Evgil Türker, who heads the Federation of Syriac Associations, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on the sidelines of the event that this year’s Easter came in a near succession of important days from other faiths. “Today is our feast day and a few days ago the Yazidi community celebrated their day (Chaharshanbeh Suri) and next week Muslims will mark Ramadan Bayram (Eid al-Fitr). I also congratulate them and I hope our religious holidays will further cement the unity of our communities,” he said.Ferit Demir, a Syriac worshiper who attended the event, said they were trying to keep the traditions alive. old traditions and he brought his children to church to observe Easter Sunday together Kenan Abraham, a longtime resident of Germany, said he visits his mother living in Midyat every Easter and tries to attend the service every year in the church. Rudi Sümer said the service was busier after the last two years, when the COVID-19 pandemic limited attendance at church services. “It’s an exciting time for us. We are happy to be together again,” Sümer said.
Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter later than their mostly Western counterparts because the Orthodox holiday is determined by the Julian calendar, which dates back to the Roman Empire and differs from the Gregorian calendar, adopted in the 16th century.