Athens, June 12, 2020
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece issued a statement today in response to recent statements from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about officially changing the status of the great Agia Sophia Cathedral from a museum back into a mosque.
The Synod recalls the glorious Christian history of the church and calls upon the Turkish authorities to exercise prudence and to maintain respect for the Agia Sophia monument, warning of the tensions that will arise if it becomes a mosque.
The statement, published on Romfea, reads in full:
The Church of Agia Sophia was founded by the Christian Emperor Justinian. It was inaugurated on December 27, 537 AD, and was intended as a place of Church worship, dedicated to the Wisdom of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a masterpiece of architectural genius and is world-renowned as a pre-eminent monument of Christian culture. Its value remains universal, because Christianity has a supranational and universal radiance.
No modern or postmodern conception of “multiculturalism” created this monument, through which the Christian conception of the supreme Good and Beauty is expressed in a unique way.
We believe that the overthrow of the culturally neutral use of the monument as a museum, which was prudently established by the Turkish Republic in 1934, attempts to turn a cultural space into a spoil and a symbol of conquest.
Any conversion will result in intense protest and frustration among Christians around the world, while it will harm Turkey itself in various ways. Many synods of the highest importance for the Christian life and faith were held in this church.
After all, these preserved and extraordinarily beautiful mosaic depictions of saints of the Christian faith unceasingly proclaim with their silence the historical and spiritual connection of the church with Christianity.
It is absolutely necessary for the government of the neighboring country to have prudence and respect for the character of the monument, in order to make the right decision to maintain the status quo of Agia Sophia as a museum.
In fact, Turkish politicians have explicitly stated that they perceive Agia Sophia as a symbol of conquest.
Speaking in Parliament several days ago, Mustafa Destici, leader of the Grand Unity Party, told reporters: “Agia Sophia is symbol of conquest. In our opinion, the reopening of Agia Sophia, far from being just a necessity and laying claim to a relic of conquest, is an issue of sovereignty and independence.”
Meanwhile, Erdogan and Turkish authorities have explicitly told Greece and the United States to mind their own business when it comes to the fate of Agia Sophia.