From Iskenderun, where the earthquake caused the collapse of the cathedral, Father Antuan says: “Brotherhood between Christian communities has grown in the tragedy”
We report the testimony of Father Antuan Ilgıt, Turkish Jesuit and delegate vicar of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia which is based in Iskenderun, in one of the areas most affected by the earthquake. The cathedral, a point of reference for the Latin Catholic community (and others), collapsed due to the earthquake. From the outset, the episcope, still accessible, welcomed about a hundred people: parishioners, nuns, but also Syriacs, Orthodox and some Muslim families. Today from there Father Antuan, together with the director of Caritas Anatolia John Farhad Sadredin, coordinates aid with about forty volunteers.
On the second Sunday of Lent we celebrated it in our new church which was the episcopal meeting room before the earthquake. With the three cloistered nuns, the focolarina and two Italian volunteers, with great enthusiasm and hope in our hearts, we brought the crucifix, a wooden tabernacle, a small wooden statue of the Madonna and the benches recovered from the collapsed cathedral and from a chapel now it is unusable. The room has become a beautiful little church that we like and that we already “fill” with moments of adoration and prayers.
At the Mass, which I presided over, there was also the priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Iskenderun, Der Hayr Avedis Tabashian, responsible for the community in Eastern Anatolia. He could not celebrate in his church because it is currently unusable. This brotherhood, which already existed before the earthquake, with him and with the Orthodox priests of the city, built also thanks to the commitment of our bishop Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti, is now even stronger in the midst of this tragedy. The Mass was deeply felt. I gave the homily and at the end he addressed an exhortation to the community.
All this to say that we “living stones” who survived the earthquake remain standing and with the help of God, who we place at the center of our daily lives, full of hope we look to Easter. In these days we have reflected on the Transfiguration of Jesus, which in the gray period of Lent gives us the light of the luminous face of the Lord. This luminous face encourages us and tells us that He is also present in this real Lent that we are experiencing here. Also because we meet him in the efforts of the earthquake victims who are refugees here, who work hard to help those in even more serious need, and we meet him in the fraternal “communion” that has become more tangible among us priests, of Latin Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian rite. Together we will celebrate the most beautiful Easter, also because as Pope Francis teaches us “no one saves themselves” and we remain united in the pain of the earthquake as well as in the light of the Risen at our gates.