A church in Istanbul will have the coveted title of first of its kind to be built in the brief history of the Republic of Turkey when its construction is completed within the next two years.
The Syriacs, an ancient Christian community of Turkey, have the honor of having been granted permission to build the first church from scratch and they were closer to their goal yesterday when the local municipality formally presented them with a construction permit. The Mayor of Bakırköy district presented the permit to Metropolitan Yusuf Çetin, head of the Syriac Church of Istanbul and Ankara.
The construction will start in late February and will be completed within two years. The delay in the process, which was first announced in 2013, stemmed from a dispute over the ownership of the land where the church will be built. The land was previously used as a Catholic cemetery belonging to the local Latin Catholic Church and a Latin Catholic priest had filed a lawsuit for ownership rights to the land, leading to a halt in construction upon a court's order. The case was later settled between the two communities.
The Mor Efrem Syriac Church will be built on a 1,200 square meter area in a larger plot of land and will serve the approximately 17,000-strong Syriac community in Istanbul.
Yusuf Çetin said they have been exerting efforts to establish a church for about a decade and thanked President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other senior officials for their support in the process. "It will be a historical first for Turkey. We were in dire need of a church in Istanbul as the largest Christian congregation in the city after the Armenian community," Çetin said.
The church will feature distinctive Syriac architectural features as seen in the Mardin province, southeast Turkey which historically has been home to a large Syriac community and to a number of exquisite Syriac churches and monasteries.