This year, Theotokos Feast was celebrated differently in Izmir Ephesus, both in terms of time and the order of celebration. In order to avoid the usual heat in the ruins of the place where the third Ecumenical Council was held in 431 in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Selçuk Ephesus Ancient City on October 10, 2021, all the congregations that first came to Ephesus, came to the Virgin Mary’s House on Selçuk Bülbül Mountain. At 16:00 they prayed the rosary in different languages. The prayer was led by Monsignor Martin Kmetec, Archbishop of the Latin Catholic Church of Izmir, and Father Igor, the Archpriest of Rosario Church in Alsancak, sang the Invocation to the Virgin Mary in Italian.
While the ceremony held in the Ancient City of Ephesus was directed by the Anatolian Latin Catholic Apostolic Vicar Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti; the Archbishop of Izmir Monsignor Martin Kmetec, the Retired Archbishop of Izmir and subsequently the Apostolic Director of Istanbul Monsignor Lorenzo Piretto, and the Bishop of the Gratianopolis Church from Athens, Monsignor Dimitrios Salachas accompanied.
James Buxton, the Priest of the Anglican Church of Izmir and Arkdiakon Agop Minasyan, representing the Armenian Catholic Church of Turkey, and the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Izmir, Father Alessandro Amprino, priests from different churches in Izmir, Istanbul and Mersin, as well as a diocesan priest from America, attended this special holiday of the year in the Aegean region.
The choir of volunteers from the Izmir community juiced up the ritual by singing hymns and Mr. Serkan playing the organ.
After reading the Sacred Readings of the Feast of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, first, Fransua the deacon of the Latin Apostolic Ministry of Constantinople, read the words of the Bible written by St. Luke in Turkish, and then Nichola, the deacon of the Archdiocese of Izmir, in Italian.
Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti, in his sermon in Italian: “… Let’s come to those of us who have gathered here today for the Feast of the Theotokos: Today, all humanity is plunged into a great darkness…. For the past two days, I took a small tour of the Çeşme Peninsula, which I had not seen for years. And I was faced with a terrible pile of concrete;… In every corner there is a devastated nature, strong imbalances in the distribution of goods, too much immorality and just as much ostentatiousness. A way of life that is the exact opposite of the way of life of Mary and Elizabeth, their husbands and children, John the Baptist and Jesus.
There is a lot of darkness even in our church: child abuse scandals, scandals in the management of assets, few youths who dedicate themselves to becoming priests or nuns, many divisions, insufficient ability to preach the Bible to the next generation, and above all, a lifestyle far from constituting an alternative to wasteful consumerism, emerged. Even among Catholic Christians there are rich people who are indifferent to the fate of the poor, and moreover, there are many people who always complain about everything.
On the other hand, those who try to live the Bible with a sincere heart are persecuted. As a matter of fact, there are many restrictions that restrict true freedom of religion in this country as well… People forced to walk in the dark.
But the second reading from the Book of Revelation reminds us that all this should not frighten us: … We are the church in the desert, but the Lord always offers us a shelter. What is this shelter? Above all, listening to the Gospel, the Word of God that brightens our night every day. Then a form of prayer that consists of listening and sharing with others, as Mary and Elizabeth did. Another shelter should be to experience acts of mercy, seven of which are physical and seven of which are spiritual. As a matter of fact, these acts of mercy are a beautiful synthesis of the teaching of the Church, which is valid for all times.”
Before the ceremony ended, Father Felianus Dogon, the General Vicar of the Archdiocese of Izmir, first thanked all the officials, everyone who helped with the organization and the people in the security services for their great support.
Then Mgr. Martin Kmetec expressed sincere gratitude to the Bishops, all the organizers and all those who came for this celebration, adding, among his words: “Your presence makes visible and concrete the marvelous fertility of this divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this divine motherhood which makes possible a Church miracle that renews itself while remaining firm in its roots. Perhaps tonight, as it was 1590 years ago, because of the dark and late hour, there will be a need to light torches to accompany and illuminate the Church. That evening, the Christians of Ephesus illuminated the night to rejoice at their Council Father, who had restored to them the certainty that they are the children of the Mother of God. Definitely a light that will never go out. Indeed, it is a Light that illuminates the world.”
(SAT-7 TÜRK/İzmir – Nathalie Ritzmann)