Cardinal Koch at inauguration of newly-built Syriac Orthodox Church in Istanbul

11 Oct 2023

On Sunday, 8 October, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, represented Pope Francis at the opening ceremony of the new Syriac Orthodox Church of St Ephrem in Istanbul. This is the first church to be built in Turkey since 1923, the year of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey.

The inauguration took place in the presence of the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as representatives of Christian churches, including His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Beatitude Sahak II, Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Constantinople.

In his message addressed to Metropolitan Filüksinos Yusuf Çetin, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of Istanbul, Cardinal Koch conveyed the closeness and prayers of His Holiness Pope Francis and stressed that "this day is also significant for all Christians in Turkey, since the Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church is officially the first Christian temple to be built since the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. It is a sign of hope for all Christians living in this country, whose presence here dates back to the very origins of Christianity and continues to contribute, albeit as a minority, to the identity of their homeland, alongside their Muslim brothers and sisters and believers of other faiths." The Cardinal also hoped that this church "will help to deepen the communion already existing among the Christians of this city and this country, with a view to the one spiritual temple that all the baptised are called to form, “built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus (Eph. 2:22), a place not far from here.”

During his stay in Istanbul, Cardinal Koch also had a private meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon. The Cardinal was accompanied by Rev. Fr. Hyacinthe Destivelle, Official of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.