Things were fine for five straight years as tens of thousands of pilgrims were allowed to return to the once-Greek region of Pontos on the southern shores of the Black Sea in modern-day Turkey to venerate and celebrate at the historic monastery of Panagia Soumela, the patron saint of Pontians.
But all that’s changed this year as the license to host the religious celebrations has been revoked, cancelling the festivities.
Tens of thousands of Pontian Greeks were planning to travel to the remote corner of Turkey, once inhabited by their parents, grandparents and ancestors to participate in the religious ceremonies commemorating the Virgin Mary and officiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The official response of the Turkish government was that permission has been revoked due to renovations taking place inside the monastery that was founded in the 3rd century AD.
The monastery is located in mountainous Trabzon, Turkey— known to Greeks as Trapezounda.The area was once the focal point of the thriving Pontian Greek community with millions of ethnic Greeks scattered throughout numerous town and cities of the Black Sea shores.
The monastery was abandoned when Greeks in the region were murdered and/or exiled following a destructive genocide in the early 1900s.
The building fell into disrepair and has since been under heavy renovations, seeking to repair damage over the decades of abandonment.