Elpidophoros laments Hagia Sophia’s conversion into mosque

Elpidophoros laments Hagia Sophia’s conversion into mosque

Archbishop Elpidophoros of America issued an encyclical on Saturday lamenting the conversion of Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia into a mosque in 2020.

“This is a day of contemplation and of greatest sorrow, not only for all Orthodox Christians, but also for every person who respects religious rights, the day on which the holy temple of Hagia Sophia, the living monument of the glory of our Orthodox faith but also the visible symbol of the functional perfection of our Church, was transformed for the second time into an Islamic Mosque,” the Archbishop pointed out.

He said that “obviously there was no need to convert the holy symbol of Orthodoxy, a monument of world cultural heritage, from a museum to a mosque, as there is an abundance of mosques in modern Istanbul.”

This decision, the Archbishop said, was made “to exploit the religious sentiment for purely political reasons.” Three years later, “we continue to hope and strive for the revision of this decision and for the re-opening of the monument, at least as a museum, so that this incomparable miracle of the Byzantine craftsmanship can once again be offered to the world community.”

Originally built in the 6th century as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, it was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul – then Constantinople – in 1453.

It then became a museum after the formation of modern secular Turkey in 1923, but a top court ruled in July 2020 that the change was illegal. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan signed a presidential decree that opened the way for its use as a mosque.

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