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After presenting their discoveries to the Archb ishop of Smyrna in 1896, a formal declaration of the discovery was published. In subsequent years, the Vatican allowed religious ceremonies to be celebrated at the site. Before and after the discovery of the house, many of the popes had offered their implicit recognition of the site as being the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) in his treatise on the Feast of the Assumption once wrote: "John amply fulfilled Christ's order; in every way he forever cared for Mary with a sense of duty; he had her live with him while he remained in Palestine, and he took her with him when he departed for Ephesus, where the Blessed Mother at length proceeded from this life into heaven." Pope St. Pius X (1903-14) granted plenary indulgences for pilgrimages to the shrine and sent his apostolic blessing to all those involved in the restoration of the house. In 1951, Pope Pius XII (1938-58) declared Mary's home an official sanctuary for pilgrims and confirmed the plenary indulgences for those who made the journey to the shrine. Before being elected to the Chair of Peter, Pope John XXIII had visited Ephesus. In 1961, he reaffirmed the plenary indulgence for pilgrims visiting the home. Six years later, Pope Paul VI (1963-78) made a pilgrimage to the holy shrine. After being elected pope in 1979, John Paul II also visited the Virgin Mary's home and again confirmed the significance of the house as a place of worship. On November 30th 1979, Pope John Paul II visited Meryem Ana and celebrated Mass.
An eyewitness recalls:
“ It was Friday, November 30th. The weather was almost spring-like and 2,000 of the faithful were gathered, round the altar on the raised bank near the House. There were Catholics from the arc­hdiocese of Izmir, Americans from the NATO base. Poles working in Turkey and many, many others. They had come from all over in co­aches, taxis and private cars. This is without counting the hundreds of police and the military. Everyone was calm though they waited more than three hours. When the Holy Father and his entourage arrived they were greeted by an explosion of joy. There was tremendous jostling, but the Pope managed to enter “Mary’s House” where he remained for a quarter of an hour. From there he went to the altar on the earth bank where he was greeted by the Archbishop of Izmir, Domenico Caloyera, then the Pope celebrated mass in Latin. After proclaiming the Gospel he spoke in French for about 25 minutes... The congregation was especially attentive and the devoti­on shown during the liturgy was visibly profound. Since there was little time and the crowd was too large, the Pope himself distributed communion to only about 50 people. At the end, after the Solemn Benediction, John Paul II greeted the principle groups of pilgrims in French, Italian, English and Polish. Thunderous applause and cheers greeted this and continued as the Pope made his way as 100 meters to the waiting car.

The visit of John Paul II lasted an hour and a half. Among the gifts presented to the Pope was a magnificent edition of the Koran in two volumes, in Arabic with a parallel French translation the work of Sheik Si Hamza Boubaker, rector of the Moslem Institute and the Paris Mosque. In presenting this the Selcuk municipality wanted to underline that the Koran too, honors Jesus and his mother, Mary...”

MARY'S LAST EARTHLY HOME?
"Kim A. Lawton"

Many believe the Blessed Virgin Mary died in this small stone house in Western Turkey It is a hot and dusty autumn day in Western Turkey, the biblical land of Asia Minor. But on top of a small mountain just outside the ancient city of Ephesus, a small park offers a shady oasis for pilgrims. They come to see Meryemana Kultur Parki, or "Mary's House," the spot where many Christians believe the Blessed Virgin Mary spent her last days on earth. Just a few miles down the mountain, hundreds of tourists push and shove their way every day among the magnificent white-columned ruins of Ephesus, some of the largest and best preserved remnants of the once-thriving Roman empire. Yet here on Bulbul ("Nightingale") Mountain, the atmosphere is peaceful, reverent. A narrow path leads to a small stone house shrouded by trees and flowers. Three nuns sit on benches near the house, praying, while several European families make their way through the low doorway leading into the house. A Turkish Muslim woman stands in front of the house. She beckons to her companions to come along. "Hurry. I want to do the pilgrimage, too," she says. Every year, thousands of pilgrims journey across Turkey to visit sites that are significant to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Christianity, in particular, has deep roots in what is now the nation of Turkey, the crossroads between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.


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