The 'House of Mary' welcomes everybody, Muslims included

In Ephesus, place of worship where Mary spent her last years

26 May, 10:40

    The House of Mary, near Ephesus The House of Mary, near Ephesus

    EPHESUS (TURKEY) - ''No, we don't place a message here, because, in Islam, that's not how we pray, but we do come anyway to pay our respects to Our Lady", says the Turkish lady covered by a veil parading with a group of Muslim visitors in front of a wall covered with thousands of pieces of paper - including paper-napkins, receipts and even tags belonging to clothing - filled with prayers, supplications and appeals for grace addressed to the Vergin.

    We are in Turkey, inside the 'House of Mary', the place where, according to Scriptures and the 431 A.D Ecumenic Council, as well as the oral traditions of both Christians and Muslims (Our Lady is often spoken about in the Koran) of the area, Mary is believed to have spent the last years of her life.

    It is in the 'House of Mary' - the tradition holds - that Our Lady came to lie 'dormant', in deep sleep before her Assumption to heaven.

    According to these sources, the Virgin arrived here from Jerusalem together with Saint John (who on the death of Saint Paul became the chief of the Ephesus church and to whom Jesus had entrusted his mother).

    This place of worship sits a few kilometers from the celebrated archaelogical site of Ephesus and is situated in the woods, at the foot of Mount Solmissus. The house, built on top of ruins dating back to the I and IV century A.D discovered by German archaeologists at the end of the 19th century, is a small brick building, a tiny sanctuary. Many objects donated by popes who came here on a pilgrimage are on display in glass cases as a testament to the spiritual significance of the site: Paul VI ( 26 July, 1967), John Paul II (November 30 1979) and Benedict XVI (November 29, 2006) all left traces in the 'House of Mary'.

    At a short distance from the house and the 'wall of prayers' lies a covered modern altar and chairs for pilgrims attending mass. Muslim women, just like the Christians who come in droves, especially on feast days, stop by the wall to read prayers written in all the languages of the world.

    Christians withdraw to a quiet spot to look for something, virtually anything, to write on and then stick their prayers on the wall, placing them amid the bricks or tying them them with a string to other messages hanging on a net. And then they pray.

    Ephesus, which is an hours' drive from Izmir and the 'House of Mary' lies in a region which witnessed the dawn of Christianity.

    The "Seven chuches of Asia' , among the earliest remnants of the faith brought to this part of the world by Saint Paul - - Pergamon, Izmir, Laodicea, Sardis, Philadelfia, Ephesus (first Christian basilica actually dedicated to Our Lady) and Thyatira - were built here and remain places of worship and historic significance as well as a unique touristic itinerary both for visitors interested in archaelogy and people wishing to trace the footsteps of the ancient Christian faith. That is the reason why they are protected by the secular Turkish state.

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