Hagia Sophia should not become mosque -Bartholomew

Appeal on the eve of decision by Turkish Council of State

01 July, 18:01

    The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew

    ISTANBUL - ''The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque would disappoint millions of Christians worldwide'' and ''we consider it to be damaging that in the 21st century it has become cause of confrontation and conflict'', the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I said. He launched an appeal ahead of a decision scheduled on Thursday by the Turkish Council of State on a request to change the status of Istanbul's landmark, which has been a museum since 1935. ''I hope that reason will prevail in the end'', added the patriarch, warning of the risk of a clash between the Christian and Muslim worlds.

    A Christian basilica for nearly a millennium, Hagia Sophia was transformed into an Islamic place of worship by Sultan Mehmet II after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

    The new reconversion into a mosque is supported by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had promised to intervene last year on the eve of administrative elections on March 31.

    Greece is staunchly opposed to the measure, denouncing a potential violation of the UNESCO convention that recognized it as a world heritage site. According to the patriarch of Constantinople, the green light for the transformation into a mosque of ''Hagia Sophia, which due to its holiness is a vital crossroads for East and West, would divide these two worlds, even more at a time when humanity, afflicted and suffering due to the deadly pandemic of the novel coronavirus, needs unity and a common orientation''. For Bartholomew, instead, ''as a museum, Hagia Sophia can function as a place and symbol of meeting, dialogue and peaceful coexistence of peoples and cultures, reciprocal understanding and solidarity between Christianity and Islam''.

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