Epiphany, or the baptism of Jesus Christ, was celebrated in Orthodox Christian communities throughout the world, including in the tiny Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul, Turkey, seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians around the world and the Archbishop of Constantinople and leader of the tiny, resilient community in Turkey, led the divine liturgy on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at the Patriarchal Church of St. George.
The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates Jesus’ baptism on Epiphany with rich celebrations around bodies of water.
The ceremony consists of a wooden cross being tossed into the water and retrieved by swimmers, usually males.
Bartholomew threw the blessed cross into the waters of Istanbul’s Golden Horn as the faithful jumped into the sea to retrieve the cross.
Nikos Solis, 29, a personal trainer from Greece who makes the pilgrimage every year, retrieved the wooden cross for the third year in a row and was given a golden crucifix on a chain and a blessing by Bartholomew.
In what could have been seen as a provocative move by Turkish authorities who were present, swimmers took out a Greek flag and swam back to land with it in their hands.
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