January 4, 2024

After 160 Years, the Relics of the Turkish Dervish Who Became an Orthodox Saint, Were Found in 1974

By Fr. Elias Makos

On January 4, 1974, the relic of Saint John of Konitsa was discovered by monks, 160 years after his martyrdom in Agrinio in 1814, in a crypt in the Prousos Monastery, right next to the miraculous icon of the Panagia Prousiotissa.

Since then the Church celebrates the finding of his relic.

It was fragrant and is still fragrant to our days, reminding us of the triumph of our faith. A triumph which rested on the bloody struggles of genuine truth.

It had been transferred from Agrinio (Vrachori at the time), where the Saint was martyred, at the initiative of the teacher Iatrides of Karpenisi and the abbot of Prousos Kyrillos Kastanofyllis, to the Monastery, where he remained hidden for more than a century and a half.

On a tile, inside the crypt, where the relic was found, it was written: "ΙΣ ΧΣ ΝΙ ΚΑ [Jesus Christ Conquers]. This John was a former Ottoman, who was martyred for Christ in Vrachori in September 1814."

Four years after he was found, his hometown of Konitsa welcomed the honorable skull of the new martyr John (also called "Turkoyiannos"), on the eve of his feast day, on September 22, 1978.

The ever-memorable Metropolitan Sevastianos of Konitsa and the late abbot of the Monastery of Docheiariou of Mount Athos, Archimandrite Gregorios, had spoken warmly about the lessons from his life.

In fact, in the pilgrimage Church of Saint Kosmas the Aitolos in Konitsa, a part of the relic of the Saint is kept, while next to the church there is a chapel dedicated to the New Martyr.

And in the new martyr John, God's grace shines in a revelatory way. He was a Turkish Dervish since the age of 20, in fact his father was a Sheikh (leader of the Dervishes).

He moved from Konitsa to Ioannina and later to Agrinio, where suddenly, apparently after a process and fermenting and struggle had preceded in his simple heart, he proclaimed, throwing off his Dervish garments, the acceptance of the divine teaching, admitting his ignorance until then.

The result of his conversion was torture and his beheading on September 24, 1814.

His bloody relics, his severed head and the rest of his body, were thrown into a stream, to be eaten by dogs.

The prefects of Agrinio, purchasing with money from the Turkish local ruler, took the relics and buried them in a private tomb of the Souliotes Koutsonikaiotes in Agrinio.

There, the people of Agrinio went and venerated the New Martyr and took courage and their souls were at peace.

The reverence towards him was so great and so intense, that the Turks began to worry. And they had prepared to slaughter the Christians and desecrate the tomb.

In order to save the Christians and to protect the relic, it was transferred to the Monastery of Prousos.

His relics make Christians feel the warmth of God even in our time, and to remind us that we may have weaknesses, but this should not dishearten us and make us despair, because Christ rose to redeem us.

And it is a source of hope and confidence, which Saint John showed with his conversion.

A conversion, which lets us understand that our imperfections are not due to the Light of Christ, but to us, who do not open our eyes wide to enjoy it.

To us, who are drawn and misled by the darkness of self-interest, selfishness, and passions.

To us, who close our ears to the voice and invitation of Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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