While working on a doctorate, it is an adventure and an enriching experience to be able to share the results of one's research with experts at an academic conference. Anna Heidelk and Dr Mihail Comanoiu had this opportunity when they took part in a conference in Antalya in Pisidia on behalf of the "Study Center for Eastern Churches". The event was organised by Metropolitan Job Getcha, who had been director of the Institute for Orthodox Studies in Chambésy near Geneva before his appointment as Metropolitan of Pisidia. At his inauguration in Antalya on 17 September 2022, the new metropolitan had already emphasised the apostolic, historical and missionary responsibility of the metropolis - in a region through which the apostle Paul had already travelled (cf. Acts 13 and 14):
"From Paphos, Paul departed with his companions and came to Perge in Pamphylia. But John separated from them and returned to Jerusalem. They themselves travelled on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. There they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and sat down" (Acts 13, 13-14).
From 15 to 17 January 2024, on the initiative of Metropolitan Job, an international conference was held in Antalya on the topic of "The Apostle Paul in Antalya. Memory. Testimony" (see the attached programme). Exegetical, archaeological, church-historical as well as contemporary theological and philosophical aspects were presented in order to shed light on the figure of the Apostle Paul and the significance of his mission for today. The event was under the patronage of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who honoured the conference with his presence.
Anyone looking for the church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in today's Antalya in Pisidia will not immediately find it among the restaurants and tourist shops. Just a little way behind a former basilica, which has alternated between church and mosque several times since the 7th century and was recently restored and reopened as the Kesik Minare mosque, you suddenly find yourself looking out over the sea - and have missed the front door. Lucky are those who are guided through the alleyways of the old town, along traces of many layers of its past, to then be allowed to enter St Alypios Church behind an inconspicuous gate in the wall. Originally a family church from the 19th century, it was abandoned for many decades before the Ecumenical Patriarchate bought it back and took care of it. Since 2009, it has been home to a multilingual Greek congregation that celebrates the liturgy in Church Slavonic and belongs to the Metropolis of Pisidia.
In addition to the extensive lecture programme, one afternoon was dedicated to visiting the excavation site of Perge. Not only a church can still be clearly recognised in the ancient city, but also the starting point of the Via Sebaste, one of the Roman roads on which Paul travelled a total of 15,000 km, as Prof. Mark Wilson explained. On the evening of the same day, a Christmas concert in the St. Paul's Cultural Centre with pianist Father Ioan Koval and the choir of St. Alypios Parish was a touching experience.
In the wake of the conference, there was a pleasant opportunity for a pilgrimage visit to Myra, east of Antalya on the coast in what is now Demre. This place and its church with its tradition of St Nicholas the bishop are linked to the town of Fribourg which venerates St Nicholas as its patron. There, as well as in the tranquil but lively former family church in Antalya and in the centre of St. Paul, a spiritual closeness and familiarity with the origins of Christianity could be felt, which also connected the participants of the conference across the boundaries of languages, cultures and denominations. This experience - together with the academic inspiration and encounters at the conference - was probably the most amazing aspect of the trip.
Anna Heidelk during her conference on "Paul and Contemporary Philosophers"
Dr. Mihail Comanoiu during his conference on "Saint Paul and the Renewal of the Mind: Exploring Paradigms for Church Revival in the Modern Era"