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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Soul in Europe Conference, Istanbul

It is not often that I get a chance to accompany clergy from other parts of the Church of England on an educational excursion into our own Diocese in Europe. But from 16-21 October I was invited to support the "Soul in Europe" event for clergy, organised by the Diocese of Bath and Wells. "Soul in Europe" is an educational conference which meets every couple of years in various European settings to explore issues related to faith, culture and the state. This year's conference met in Istanbul. The theme was "East Meets West: Social and Religious Identity in an Expanding Europe". 19 priests from the Dioceses of Bath and Wells, Chichester, Salisbury and Guildford took part.

It was a packed and stimulating programme which began, appropriately, with an audience and discussions with His All Holiness Bartholomew II, the Ecumenical Patriarch and His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Proussa. Other highlights of the week included:
  • Meetings at the Armenian Patriarchate with Archbishop Aram Ateshian (who heads that Church at this time as Patriarch Mesrob II is seriously ill). 
  • A presentation on interfaith dialogue with Roman Catholic Franciscan Friar Gwenol√© Jeusset. 
  • An address by the Revd Canon Ian Sherwood of Christ Church Istanbul on the history of the Anglican presence in the city and the historic Crimean Memorial Church.
  • A presentation by the Revd Engin Yildirim of the Church of the Resurrection, Istanbul, who spoke of the challenges of identity faced by Turkish Christians. 
The delegation also explored several points of view related to Turkish accession to the EU from professors, a Muslim believer and human rights expert Mine Yildirim. Daily prayer, evening reflections and two eucharists gave a spiritual framework to the week, which included visits to the Blue Mosque, Agia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace.

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