CATHOLIC CHURCH OF ISKENDERUN
Yenișehir Mah. Mithat Paşa Cad. No. 5
Tel: +90 (0)326 6140067
Fax: +90 (0)326 6139291
Sunday: 11,30 am
From Tuesday to Friday: 6,00 pm (at St. George Parish)
THE HISTORY OF OUR COMMUNITY
The years under Syrian influence
The Barefoot Carmelites arrived in Alessandretta (Iskenderun) in 1858 and began construction of a consecrated church named the Church of the Annunciation. After a devastating fire, the church was fully restored (1888-1901) and reopened for worship.
From 1871, for more than 40 years, P. Paolo Pergantino, from the Religious Province of Tuscany, was the parish priest: it was his commitment and effort that led to the reconstruction of the church. The Mission’s activities consisted of a parish life with a school, printing shop, hospital, dispensary, and civil and sports groups.
During the period from 1858 to 1914 the Fathers were awarded a silver and gold medal from the Italian government. Generations of Muslims had appreciated the religious work, the care and support, and the effort of promoting humanity and culture by the Carmelites. P. Paolo Pergantino was held in great esteem by the entire population of Alessandretta, he created immense good in his salvation of souls and he was encouraged and sustained by the venerable Apostolic Prefect at the time, P. Emanuele della Croce, who was able to build a vast church which is one of the most beautiful in Syria.
In Alessandretta, next to the church, an annexed conventino was built as living quarters for the Fathers, and later used as boys’ schools directed by our Fathers and two girls’ schools, the first directed by the Nuns of Saint Joseph of the Apparition, the second by the Carmelite Nuns of Campi Bisenzio.
In those years, Iskenderun was under French mandate only to pass under Italian mandate in 1911. From 1920 al 1938 it once again returned under French mandate in an effort to be reclaimed by Syria. In the end it became part of the Turkish Republic and has remained so until today.
In the 1930’s, the church which was situated in the Catholic quarter was no longer frequented by the French Catholics. They thought that the priests of this Italian parish were Fascist militants, something the priests obviously did not appreciate. So on Sundays they attended Mass which was celebrated in the Brothers of the Christian School chapel. An Italian priest, Father Allard, celebrated the Mass and his powerful voice has remained famously cited in the annals of the city.
Under the Turkish Republic
With the annexation of Iskenderun to Turkey in 1939, the Mission’s political-religious situation began to change. Following the provisions of the Apostolic Vicar-Delegate Mons. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Carmelites remained there, facing enormous sacrifices. They continued to receive great appreciation by the population. However political changes led to the emigration of Christians who participated in activities, above all scholastic, which were no longer taught by religious leaders. Meanwhile, people were flowing into the parish, various Christians of other rites or of other churches that had left them without any spiritual assistance.
Along with the diminishing number of Catholics in the region, was the added scarcity of vocations. The presence of the Carmelites in Iskenderun was reduced to a minimum. This situation moved the Provincial Council to place the future of the Mission in the hands of the Definitory General. Following P. Generales’ proposal, the parish was left to the Capuchin Fathers from the province of Parma, who had a consistent presence in Turkey and who were favorable to assume the task. The Congregation of the Oriental Churches on its part, gave consensus to this changeover.
In 1984 the Carmelites left the church to the Capuchins. In 1999 they left the administration of the complex to the Bishop of Anatolia where he could make his new residence and Cathedral. After almost a century, the church was newly restored by Mons. Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, so it could be consecrated and used as a real Cathedral (17 aprile 2005).
CHRONOLOGY OF THE CHURCH PASTORS
|P. Paolo Pergantino of the Sacred Heart||1871-1903||Carmelite|
|P. Mariano Ghirardi||1903-1939||Carmelite|
|P. Rinaldo Moretti||1939-1984||Carmelite|
|P. Roberto Ferrari||1984-1996||OFMCap|
|P. Gregorio Simonelli||1996-1999||OFMCap|
|P. Roberto Ferrari||1999-2001||OFMCap|
|P. Felice Morandi||2001-2003||Salesian|
|P. Davide Vezzoli||2003-2004||OFMConv|
|P. Eusebio Matei||2004-2005||OFMConv|
|P. Iosif Florin Petrila||2005-2010||OFMConv|
|P. Martin Kmetec||2010-2011||OFMConv|
|P. Maximilian Vereș||2011-2016||OFMConv|
|P. Lucian Abalintoaiei||2016-2018||OFMConv|