Skip to content

(DF) Bulgarian St Stephen Church in Istanbul Celebrates Christmas and Its Own Feast Day

December 26 (BTA) – The Bulgarian St Stephen Church in Istanbul hosted a Christmas liturgy on December 26, which marked its own feast day as well. Also known as the Iron Church, it is situated on the shore of the Golden Horn, at the heart of the Turkish city. It is the most important monument of the Bulgarians spiritual, cultural and historical heritage in Turkey, and this year is its 123rd anniversary. After a long interruption of public religious worship in Istanbul due to COVID-19, the St Stephen Church was finally reopened for Orthodox rituals. Sunday’s liturgy was led by Metropolitan Emanuil, who was authorized by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to officiate at the service. Bartholomew has tested positive for COVID-19. Part of the time, the liturgy was led by Haralampi Nichev, the priest for the Bulgarian churches in Istanbul, and a group of other Bulgarian and Greek priests. Metropolitan Cyprian of Stara Zagora participated in the ceremony as a representative of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and of its Chairman, Patriarch Neophyte, at the invitation of Vassil Lyaze’s Bulgarian Exarchate Foundation. Noting that the liturgy was very impressive, Cyprian said for BTA: “Worship is a blessing when there is unity in faith, unity in love, truth and hope. It is then that the Orthodox Church can be strong and will always be strong.” The event was also attended by members of the Bulgarian community in Istanbul, Bulgarian Consul General Vassil Valchev, architect Fikriye Bulunmaz, who designed the project for the restoration of the St Stephen Church ending three years ago, and other guests from Bulgaria and Istanbul. A greetings message from Bulgarian President Rumen Radev to the Bulgarians in Istanbul was read out. Radev stated in the message: “The St Stephen Church is not just a place of worship. It is also a bright symbol of our history and a cherished destination for pilgrims. I want to congratulate you on the efforts you have made in the outgoing year 2021 to preserve the Bulgarian spirit and traditions and to protect the Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage. You can rest assured that the Bulgarian state will continue to support our compatriots in Istanbul.” VE