Source: Daily Sabah
February 5, 2016
Fanar's Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew started a one-week visit to İzmir, a western Turkish city once heavily populated by Greeks. The visit by Patriarch Bartholomew, who presides over many Orthodox churches around the world, is significant for those Orthodox churches which are affiliated with the patriarchate, as a synod, an assembly of clergymen, will also convene in İzmir during the visit.
The patriarch is accompanied by bishops from various Orthodox churches, as well as a large group of the Orthodox faithful from Turkey and abroad. His itinerary includes interfaith dialogue events, such as tree-planting ceremonies at mosques and a visit to a cemevi, the Alevi house of worship.
Bartholomew will also attend a welcoming ceremony for Panaya Paramithia, an icon that was brought from Greece's Mount Athos, one of the most sacred sites of Orthodox Christianity, to the Agios Voukolos Church in İzmir, a church named after the presumed first Christian bishop of İzmir, which was known as Smyrna in the second century. He will preside over religious services in several churches in İzmir during his visit. Renowned Greek singer Haris Alexiou, a descendant of a Greek family who lived in İzmir, was personally invited by the patriarch to İzmir, and will perform at a concert on Saturday in honor of the visit. The patriarch will also attend a symposium on saints.
The patriarch attends five-day liturgy events each year in İzmir, which had a significant Greek population before a population exchange in the 1920s between Turkey and Greece that saw many Greeks flee.
İzmir has recently seen a revival of the Greek Orthodox community. Last year, Bartholomew attended the first Divine Liturgy at a church, which laid decrepit for 93 years. The church was renovated and reopened with assistance from municipal authorities.