Pope willing to visit Iran’s Orumiyeh

IRNA –Deputy of Research at European Union Joint Research Center said that Pope Franciscus is willing to visit city of Orumiyeh and its ancient Church of St. Mary, according to an official in Orumiyeh University.

‘According to Deputy of Research at European Union’s Joint Research Center, Guccione, the church is the third holy place to the world’s Christians after Bethlehem (the birth place of Christ) and Jerusalem church, the head of Religious and Ethnic Study Center of Orumiyeh University Mohammad Salehi told Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on Sunday.

It is said that one of the three Zoroastrian priests who foresaw the birth of Christ may be buried in St. Mary Church, he said.

St. Mary Church is an ancient Assyrian church located in the city of Orumiyeh, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. It is considered by some historians to be the second oldest church in Christendom after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Current old building of the church belongs to Sassanid era and its interior design is a combination of Sassanid and Arsacid architecture.

It is believed by some Assyrian and Christian historians that it had been a Fire temple at first in which Zoroastrian priests used to pray. At Jesus Christ’s time of birth, three priests observed a shining star moving towards east. They considered it as a sign of awaited Messiah’s birth and traveled to Jerusalem to meet him. After coming back they converted the fire temple to a church. A Chinese princess, who contributed to its reconstruction in 642 AD, has her name engraved on a stone on the church wall.