The Syriacs of Turkey are among the oldest Christian communities in the world. The ancestral homeland is in Turkey's southeast region, where several ancient Syriac churches and monasteries still operate, tending to the local Christians there. But the large Syriac community in Istanbul has never been able to get state permission to open up a new church of their own -- until now. From a report in Hurriyet:
After years of tussling and hairsplitting, Turkey’s Syriac Christian community has secured approval from both the prime minister and the president for the construction of its first church in the Yeşilköy neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul.
“Half of our community lives in and around Yeşilköy. We rent churches for Sunday rites, but we can only start morning mass at 11:30, whereas we are supposed to finish our Sunday rites before 10:30 in accordance with our tradition,” Kenan Altınışık, a prominent Syriac community leader, told the Hürriyet Daily News via e-mail.
The church site will be allocated to the ancient community by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, while construction expenses will be paid for by the Syriacs. An official from Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Hürriyet Daily News that they are searching for a suitable location for the new church.
The church architecture is planned to bear traces of the Syriac’s thousands-of-years-old culture, while the construction is set to begin as soon as suitable lands are allotted.
The full article can be found here. And a previous article of mine about the slow return of Syriacs to southeast Turkey can be found here.
(Note: this post has been corrected to reflect the fact that an older Syria church already exists in Istanbul, in the city's Tarlabasi neighborhood.)