The city of Antalya in Turkey (the ancient Greek town of Attaleia) welcomes an Orthodox church request by the Russian Patriarch

A recent request from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill that the Mediterranean city of Antalya must have an Orthodox church has received support from local politicians and tourism investors.

Kirill noted during his visit to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week that Antalya, which hosts millions of Russian tourists every year and also has residents of Russian origin, does not have an Orthodox church.

Antalya Metropolitan Mayor Mustafa Akaydın of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said he was supportive of the idea. “Nearly 500,000 square meters of land where a weaving factory used to be located has been allocated to our municipality by the Privatization Board,” he said “This area can be used to build temples for the three religions, including an Orthodox church and a cemevi for our Alevi citizens.”

Evelina Baysal, a 26-year-old model who lives in Antalya, said she was excited to hear about Kirill’s request. “There are many Russian citizens residing in Antalya,” she said. “It would be great to have a church here. We do not have a place to practice our beliefs.”

Baysal said that Orthodox couples who meet in Antalya and decide to marry face a major problem in organizing a church wedding.

Antalya Culture and Tourism Director İbrahim Acar said Antalya needs an Orthodox church. “Over 2 million Russian tourists visited Antalya last year, and 774,000 have come so far this year,” he said. “The people do not bring only their bodies; they bring their souls, too. Their spiritual needs should also be met.”

Sururi Çorabatur, chairman of the Mediterranean Hoteliers Association, noted that the «The Faith Garden,” which has a mosque, a synagogue and a church, served the needs of the tourists. “People who believe in any kind of religion have the chance to practice their beliefs,” he said. “If Orthodox people have such a request, it might be met.”

Bülent Büyükyiğit, the head of the Belek Union of Tourism Investors, said the church in «The Faith Garden” hosts a Catholic ritual every Sunday. “The Russian Orthodox held their Easter ritual in the church on April 17,” he added. “The attendance was high, and we had very positive reactions. The Russians had to cut their holidays short to attend the ritual back at home, this year they didn’t.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
EMRE BAYLAN
ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency

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