Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 17 November 2009
Turkey: Worship to Continue in Historic Church
|The government of Turkey has agreed to extend permission for Christians to worship at an historic church in Tarsus, the birthplace of the apostle Paul.||
The early-medieval St Paul’s church was confiscated in 1943 to be used as a state museum, although fee-paying Christian visitors were allowed to use it for regular services. Permission was previously granted on a year by year basis. But between June 2008 and June 2009, during the “Year of St Paul”, a record 416 Christian groups from 30 different countries visited Tarsus, prompting the Turkish government to extend indefinitely its consent for Christian services to be held in the church.
Church leaders in Turkey have now requested the permanent return of the building from the government. A local church leader says, “For the first time, Turkish Muslims have witnessed Christians, not as tourists, but as praying pilgrims, whose devotion has made a lasting impression on the Turkish people.”