9 October 2012
Faithful celebrate Mass at a Roman Catholic church in Antakya, Hatay province. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2011 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague provides a window into the variegated Christian life of the Turkish city of Antakya, once known as Antioch:
To walk through Antioch today is to walk through a city that is both historically rich and religiously diverse.
With the great medieval bazaar on one side, with its tiny shops selling nuts, dried fruits, lingerie and cell phones, the old town forms what priests enthusiastically call an “ecumenical triangle.” Within short walking distance are the synagogue to the north, the Latin Catholic church to the west, the Orthodox cathedral to the east, and a scattering of ancient mosques in all directions.
By far the most impressive church is the Orthodox cathedral. With a high dome supported by sturdy limestone columns, it is discreetly hidden behind a narrow gateway so that you almost come upon it by chance. About 100 Arabic—speaking members of the Antiochene Orthodox community attend the evening Divine Liturgy on Ascension Thursday. Father Dimitri Dogum leads his small congregation in its ancient and haunting chant. …
Five minutes away, through a warren of alleyways, stands the Latin Catholic church. Its pastor, Father Domenico Bertogli, a Capuchin from Italy, has lived in Turkey for 42 years, and in Antioch for the last two decades.
Father Bertogli explains why so many different kinds of Christians live together peaceably. “Antioch is the place where we were first called Christians,” he says, “and it should not matter whether we call ourselves Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. Many of the young people tell me this. What matters is that we are Christians!”
Read more in Turkey’s Melting Pot.
Tags: Middle East Christians Unity Turkey Ecumenism Christian Unity