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Church of St Nicholas closed on the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas

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  • Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
    7 December, 2005 TURKEY Church of St Nicholas open to local mufti, but closed for mass on the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas by Mavi Zambak Although the church
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2005
      7 December, 2005

      Church of St Nicholas open to local mufti, but closed for mass on the
      Feast Day of Saint Nicholas
      by Mavi Zambak

      Although the church belongs to the Orthodox Patriarchate, the
      authorities have turned it into a museum where the Eucharist cannot
      be celebrated. The local mufti can however use it for his Santa Claus

      Demre (AsiaNews) – In a warm and fertile land where a turquoise sea
      gently splashes against a beautiful shoreline rises a small Turkish
      town, Demre, which would have been lost to history were it not for
      the fact that it once was the Episcopal See of Saint Nicholas, the
      same Saint Nicholas whose venerated mortal remains now lay in the
      Cathedral of Bari (southern Italy), the same Saint Nicholas known to
      the many as Saint Nick, Old Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris
      Kringle, Santa Claus, Santy, or simply Santa—whose home is usually
      given as either the North Pole in the United States (Alaska),
      northern Canada, Korvatunturi in Finnish Lapland, Dalecarlia in
      Sweden, or Greenland, depending on the tradition and country—, the
      same old, bearded man who on Christmas Night travels the world in his
      red and white costume bringing gifts to children.

      According to one tradition in fact, the practice of gift-giving comes
      directly from Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, who put three bags of
      gold in stockings left to dry belonging to three young women, who had
      no dowry, so that their father may not sell them into prostitution.

      A recently renovated church in Demre is dedicated to the same Saint
      Nicholas, a church, according to tradition, that was built in the 4th
      century, when the town was called Myra and Saint Nicholas was its

      Despite complaints, the church has now become a museum open to the
      local mufti and his Santa Claus Association but closed to the
      Eucharist by a decision of the local authorities. Gone is also the
      statue of the Saint.

      The Saint, who was buried in the church until a group of merchants
      from Bari spirited his remains away in 1087, had fame as a
      thaumaturge, drawing pilgrims and believers from around the region.

      According to ancient chronicles, pilgrims came to the shrine, poured
      oil into the tomb and collected it after it was sanctified by contact
      with the Saint's bones so that it could be used on the sick.

      Today, although the building is the property of the Greek Orthodox
      Church (but known to local Turks as the Santa Claus Church), it is
      used as a museum. The Saint's sarcophagus may be empty but tourists
      are charged a fee to visit the burial chapel

      And it is this church, the church of the bishop of Myra, famous for
      his generosity and piety that has become a bone of contention and a
      source of conflict.

      The statue of Saint Nicholas, a bag full of gifts over his shoulder,
      surrounded by children, which was a gift of the Russian Orthodox
      Church, no longer stands in the square in front of the building. It
      has been replaced since last spring by order of the town's mayor,
      Suleyman Topcu, with a modern and multicoloured painting of Santa

      Furthermore, for the past two years, the Eucharistic celebration has
      been banned on the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas.

      Yesterday, the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, Orthodox Christians had
      to meet in a private home for mass despite repeated formal requests
      by Patriarch Bartholomew I they be allowed to use the church.

      The church-turned-museum was instead made available to the city's
      mufti who had organised a "prayer for peace" during which, and this
      takes the cake, the local Turkish Santa Claus association handed out
      its annual Santa Claus Peace Prize to Jeannine Gramick, an American
      Catholic nun, who was being acknowledged for her ardent defence of
      gay and lesbian rights, Turkish newspaper Radical reported.

      In her acceptance speech, the 63-year-old nun asked for forgiveness
      for the Pope and believers who do not respect homosexuals.

      Local Christians were left dumbfounded and baffled over what the
      Turkish state is trying to achieve with such impudent and
      contradictory actions.

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