PICTURE OF ST. ANTHONY’S CHURCH
It was a beautiful sunny day in Istanbul! Our day began with a visit to the Hagia Irene. The Hagia Irene is one of few Byzantine-era cathedrals, which was never converted to a mosque (though not used for religious purposes either during the Ottoman period). This church is in the first court of Topkapi Palace. It is one of the earliest Christian churches in Istanbul. The building stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the Hagia Irene Church in the 4th century. Also located here is an Archaeological Museum. The museum has a large collection of Turkish, Hellinistic Civilization, and Roman artifacts.
After visiting the museum we then went to a Catholic Church located in Istanbul. The name of the church is Saint Anthony. We celebrated mass there this afternoon. The only priest there is a Franciscan Friar who is from Italy. He has been at this church for almost two years. It was very nice of him to allow Father Tom and Father John to celebrate mass for us on this day.
The church has beautiful stained glass windows. Hanging above the altar there is a beautiful wood crucifix. Also there are two mosaics depicting the Baptism of the Lord and the Last Supper. On one side of the altar there is also a bronze bust of St. Maximillian Kolbe. Near the front entrance of the church is a bronze statue of Pope John XXIII. Pope John XXIII preached in this church for 10 years, when he was the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey before being elected as pope. He is known in Turkey with the nickname “The Turkish Pope” because of his fluent Turkish and his often expressed love for Turkey and the city of Istanbul. This church serves a community of about 200 Catholics. On Sunday’s Father recites mass in English, Italian, Polish, and Turkish languages. I really loved that we had celebrated mass in this beautiful church today. It was a very special mass for all of the pilgrims in our group.