JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our website and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world and introducing you to various projects we have helped to bring into being together with our partners and ACN benefactors.
This week: Turkey
The territory of the modern state of Turkey covers an area that can be considered in many respects as the “Cradle of Christianity”. For it was here that some of the earliest Christian communities were established, already in the times of the Apostles themselves. All the seven Christian communities that are mentioned in the Revelation of St John can be found here in the west of Turkey. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary herself is said to have spent the last years of her earthly life in Ephesus, as did the Apostle John. The house in Ephesus where Our Lady is believed to have lived is today a place of pilgrimage. Similarly, Tarsus, the birthplace of the Apostle Paul, is situated in what is today Turkey. Nor should we forget the great Fathers of the Church such as Saint Basil the Great and his brother Saint Gregory of Nazianzen, Saint Polycarp of Smyrna and Saint Ignatius of Antioch, all of whom originated from what is today Turkey – nor again the great and important events of Church history that took place here, such as the Councils of
Nicaea and Constantinople.
Even just 100 years ago some 25% of the inhabitants of Turkey were still Christians – a total of some 3 million Christians in a population of just 11 million. Today Turkey has a population of 74 million, among whom whom just 200,000 Christians remain, among them no more than around 53,000 Catholics of the various different rites.
The Latin-rite apostolic vicariate of Istanbul serves approximately 15,000 Catholic faithful. One of the very few Catholic churches in Istanbul is the church of „Sancta Maria Draperis“, which is also the oldest Latin Catholic church in the Turkish capital. Ever since the 18th century it has been the seat of a parish under the care of the Franciscan Fathers. Today there are four Franciscan monks living and working here. Already in earlier times there had been a Catholic church on this spot, which had however been destroyed several times by fire or earthquakes and subsequently rebuilt. Yet through all these disasters the icon of Our Blessed Lady had remained unscathed.
Today this church stands in the central pedestrianized zone of Istanbul and is thus an important symbol of the Catholic presence in the Turkish capital. In past decades one wing of the adjoining monastery had been rented out, and it was only recently that the Franciscan Fathers were able to once again take possession of this wing for themselves. They are now hoping to be able to use this wing as a guest room, meeting room and parish office.
They are not wealthy, however, and have already had to carry out other renovation work on their monastery in the recent past – and so they have turned to ACN for help. We have promised them $ 42 600.