The Mor Samuel (Shmuel) Church, located in the Anıtlı (previously known as the "Hah") village in the Midyat district of the southeastern province of Mardin, hosted its first religious ceremony in the last 60 years on Oct. 15.
"Mor Samuel Church has been among the places in which the deeds were given back with a legal regulation carried out by the cabinet. After receiving the deeds, we stepped up efforts to open places to worship again, as restoration and repair works had been pending for years. So, we have opened the church dating back to the fifth century located in Midyat's Hah village to worship," said Koryakus Ergün, head of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation.
The church was closed for 60 years and has been the fourth church to open for worship in a year, he added.
Syriac Orthodox Christians living in Turkey and Europe attended the ceremony led by Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktaş, the metropolitan bishop of Tur Abdin and the abbot of the Mor Gabriel Monastery.
The Turkish government returned legal ownership of the cemetery land and properties to the minority Syriac community in the southeastern province of Mardin on May 23, following a decision in November 2017.
The problem arose when the Mardin Municipality's status was changed to a metropolitan municipality in 2014 and the title deeds of the monastery, church and cemeteries belonging to the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation were handed to the Turkish state treasury.
Following intense opposition, the properties were first transferred to the Directorate of Religious Affairs and then the General Directorate of Foundations.