His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew thanked the Patriarch of Romania “from the depth of his heart” for the support expressed in the case of the Hagia Sophia Basilica following a decision of the Turkish authorities to transform it into a mosque after 86 years.
“From the depth of our heart, we thank you for Your Beatitude’s letter, in which you express your deep personal sorrow and that of the Holy Church in Romania regarding the recent decision taken by the Turkish state authorities to transform the Hagia Sophia museum into a Muslim mosque,” Patriarch Bartholomew wrote.
“The construction of Christian churches is an incomparable theological language, which through architectural inspiration expresses the Church’s right faith in the Triune God, in the all-saving incarnation of the Word of God, in the eschatological fulfilment and the fullness of the Divine Economy in God’s Kingdom. This truth is represented and preached in a unique way by the Holy Church of the Wisdom of God.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch pointed out that “no intervention in this building can cover, change or make disappear the evangelical message and the mission of this Church, which has been wisely said to represent the architectural imprint of the Chalcedon dogma.”
In response to Patriarch Daniel’s letter, the Patriarch of Constantinople stated that only the use of Hagia Sophia as a Christian church “responds to its saving essence and testimony.”
Regarding the first Muslim prayers that resounded inside the Hagia Sophia Cathedral after 86 years, the Ecumenical Patriarch said that Muslims prayed “in a Christian church, in a Christian atmosphere in general and not just because of the icons that have were covered.”
The last mosaics preserved on the walls of Hagia Sophia were covered with curtains or lasers during the first Muslim prayers on Friday, July 24.
“The only use that respects and indicates the truth and the holy mission of the Hagia Sophia is to function as a Christian place of worship.”
“The Church of the Wisdom of God as the architectural imprint of the redemption of the human race and of all creation in Christ belongs to all humanity.”
Patriarch Bartholomew noted that the inclusion of Hagia Sophia on the UNESCO World Heritage List (1985) confirms its character as a symbol of Christian faith and civilization and of universal art.
Built by the righteous Emperor Justinian the Great in 537, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque in 1453 by Sultan Muhammad II the Conqueror, after the Ottomans occupied Constantinople and retained this status until the 1934 decree of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of the modern Turkish state.
On July 10 this year, the Turkish state council, the highest administrative court, overturned the decree, and a few hours later, the Turkish president signed another decree, which transformed the building into a Muslim place of worship.
Photography courtesy of Ecumenical Patriarchate / Nikos Papachristou
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