Following a nearly five-year restoration project, an ancient Orthodox monastery in Turkey's Black Sea region has restarted mass services. Participants went to Sumela Monastery in the Trabzon region Saturday for a ceremony marking the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. About 70 people took part while also observing measures against the coronavirus pandemic. Christian Berger, outgoing head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, was among the participants. Due to the risk of falling rocks in the monastery carved into the Pontic Mountains over 1,600 years ago, the site was closed to visitors in September 2015. The first phase of environmental planning, as well as fortification efforts and geological and geotechnical research, was done on the surrounding rocks, with one part of the monastery, including its yard, opened to visits in May 2019. After completing the second phase of restoration, 65% of the monastery was opened this July 28 with a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan via video link and Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy in person. 'Our Orthodox citizens will be able to perform the [Litany of the Blessed] Virgin Mary religious service, which was suspended during the restoration period at Sumela Monastery,' Erdoğan told the ceremony.