(CP) – Construction for the first-ever church to be built in the modern Republic of Turkey will begin in February, a move Syriac Orthodox believers have long been waiting for. Bülent Kerimoğlu, the mayor of Istanbul’s Bakirköy municipality, said on Tuesday that the paperwork has been completed for the expected two-year construction project. Anadolu Agency noted that when completed, the church will serve Syriac Orthodox believers, which number close to 17,000, living in Istanbul. Yusuf Cetin, the Syriac Orthodox Church’s metropolitan for Istanbul and the capital Ankara, hailed the move, saying

that “different religions, ethnic roots … everyone’s hearts beat for our Turkey.” “We’re proud of living under the Turkish flag in this land,” he added. Plans for the new church were first revealed in 2015, when Agence France Presse noted that the church would be the first one built since the end of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the modern republic in 1923. While older churches have been restored and reopened to the public, the planned church will be the first new one in the territory in nearly 100 years. READ MORE