His All Holiness, Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch celebrated Vespers with Artoklassia and Mnemosinon at the Church of the Entrance of the Theotokos in Alatsata.

 

The site of the celebration was completed in 1872, and was the site of pilgrimages of Orthodox Christians from all parts of Ionia and beyond; it is  served by clergy under the Metropolis of Smyrna. In the early part of the 1920’s the Greek Orthodox Population of Asia Minor were exiled and became refugees; thus, for over nine decades the Church of the Entrance of the Panagia was inactive; eventually, because of its beauty, the Church became a museum at the behest of the Turkish authorities. A memorial service was conducted in memory of the founders of the Church, the clergy who served it, and all the hierarchs of Smyrna.

After the service His All Holiness spoke in Greek and in Turkish. 

First and foremost he thanked God for granting the opportunity to come to the Church and celebrate Vespers, Artoklasia and Mnemosinon in such a historic monument of the Greek Orthodox faith. He thanked the Turkish authorities of the area and in particular the Mayor of Alatsata for granting the permission to celebrate a service and allow the many descendants of the residents of Alatsata to come and venerate the Mother of God, filled with nostalgia and strong memories of their parents, grandparents and forefathers who were Alatsatianoi. His All Holiness remarked that even those pilgrims present who were not native to the area came with the same zeal and enthusiasm as her home born children, coming to honor this historic occasion and to visit the black and white pebbles of the hills of Alatsata. His All Holiness made special mention of a lemon tree planted by a man in love in the olden days which still exists. He made a special statement of gratitude to His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago whose family originated in Alatsata and who has acted with great love for the homeland of his parents. He expressed appreciation for all that he has done for Alatsata, returning often to visit both in person, and in his thoughts and prayers. He expressed heartfelt thanks and embraced his brother in Christ, His Eminenmce Metropolitan Iakovos.

Comparing the present cooperation of the Turkish authorities to that of P.M. Eleftherios Venizelos and Kemal Attaturk, His All Holiness reminded those present that the world changes, and that there are better days ahead. “The Holy Spirit has always prevailed,” His All Holiness said, and the Greek Orthodox Church will be here, in this historic place, forever.