Mardin, Turkey -- Turkey's Assyrian community has welcomed a new regulation allowing free allocation of places of worship such as synagogues, churches, and monasteries to minority foundations.
Yilmaz Hicbezmez, deputy head of an association linked to the Mor Hananyo Monastery -- also known as the Monastery of St. Ananias -- in Turkey's southeastern province of Mardin hailed the new decision.
"We are really excited about this [decision]. We are aware that our government, our President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] and AK [Justice and Development] Party are very sensitive to this issue. We thank them a lot," Hicbezmez said.
Turkey's Foundations Council, the top decision-making body of the Foundations Directorate-General, which manages and audits religious foundations, recently signed a decision to facilitate the process.
Under the decision, no usage charge would be levied on immovable properties and properties used as places of worship allocated to public institutions and organizations that are used in line with the purposes stated in the foundation certificate-charter.
It allows immovable properties such as synagogues, churches, and monasteries of the Foundations Directorate to be allocated free of charge to the relevant foundations.
Until recently, such allocations only had been offered to mosques.
As part of the decision, firstly the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Church in Istanbul's Beyoglu district was allocated to the Assyrian Catholic Church Foundation for 49 years. The community thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the move.
According to Hicbezmez, Assyrian community living abroad also are pleased with the decision.
He added that if empty churches are also allocated to them, they want to make renovations and put into service.
Priest Gabriel Akkurt also hailed Turkey's new decision.
"It is a pleasing and happy news," Akkurt said: "First of all, I would like to thank the President, our government and all those who contributed."
"Hopefully, they will give with land registration certificates, that would be better."