The patriarch was in Kirazlı monastery in Balıkesir province’s Erdek district for the Divine Liturgy. The 99-room monastery was built in 1895 on the outskirts of a mountain and was abandoned in 1923, at the time of a population exchange after World War I that saw Turks in the Balkans migrating to Turkey while Greeks migrated to Greece.
The patriarch thanked the faithful, including descendants of Greeks who migrated from Turkey, for the large turnout to the Divine Liturgy. “I hope you will mention how hospitable Turkey is and about freedom of religion in Turkey once you return to your country,” he told the faithful.
Bartholomew I said the world needed peace and unity more than ever today, especially with the Middle East engulfed with conflicts. Referring to Syrians who took shelter in Turkey, the patriarch said hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless, children beg on the streets and people spend everything they have to cross into Europe in the face of death. He then recalled the population exchange: “People sent from here experienced similar things. They left everything they had here and were forced to leave. We pray for those who went through this great ordeal and for those who are forced to leave their homes [in Syria and other places] today,” he said in his sermon.
After a population exchange was agreed upon by a convention signed in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1923 by Greece and Turkey, which fought a brutal war for the capture and defense of former Ottoman territories, some 2 million people are estimated to have been resettled in Turkey and Greece.