First Islamic prayers in Agia Sophia have begun, to last 24 hours

Istanbul, July 24, 2020

Curtains are covering the fresco of the Theotokos in the apse of Agia Sophia. Photo: haberler.com Curtains are covering the fresco of the Theotokos in the apse of Agia Sophia. Photo: haberler.com     

The first Islamic prayers have already begun in the Agia Sophai Cathedral in Istanbul, newly reconverted into a mosque by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to Ali Yerlikaya, the Governor of Istanbul, this first prayer session will last 24 hours, until 10:00 AM tomorrow morning, reports Interfax-Religion with reference to the Greek outlet ethnos.gr.

Traffic was blocked around Agia Sophia from 10:00 PM last night in preparation for today’s event. Those who come to pray, whether inside or outside the building, will have to bring a mask, a prayer mat, and “patience and understanding,” the governor noted.

Separate prayer areas for men and women have also been set up in the courtyard of the iconic UNESCO Heritage site.

The remaining Christian frescoes are covered by curtains during the Muslim prayers. It was originally conceived to cover them with special lighting and lasers, though this idea was later abandoned for fear of harming the frescoes.

Meanwhile, Orthodox churches throughout Greece, Cyprus, and beyond are solemnly ringing their bells and praying Akathists to the Mother of God on this sad occasion.

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7/24/2020

Comments
Theodoros 7/27/2020 3:36 pm
To Greek of Constantinople, I appreciate your comments. I respect your position as well. And I am sorry if wrote some things in anger on some earlier posts.
A Greek of Constantinople7/27/2020 4:32 am
Theodoros in regards to our conversation under an other article. I chose to not continue our argument. So I have not checked there and will most likely not check. Know that your position and views have been clarified and that they are respected. I respect your thoughts and your position regardless if I agree or disagree. I do agree with you on many matters. I am not always disagreeable. Know that between me and you all is good and I thank you for your replies.
A Greek of Constantinople7/26/2020 9:52 pm
Well, Alexander you and those like you love to use the name "Greeks" over and over and not "Constantinople, Athens, Bartholomew and Ieronymos". So I use the term "Russians" just as permissively as you. The Churches have names, so you are more than welcome to "tag" more specifically. But that is your perspective. My perspective differs. I too can make the argument that you are unworthy and schismatics, from my perspective. After all none of our Churches have cut communion with any of yours. You initiated the said schism which makes you schismatics just like the old calendar Churches cut communion even among themselves depending on how the wind blows or on how their members get along. That is not Orthodoxy that is schism.. but even so God is above human feelings and logic. The Blood and Body of Christ in an old Calendar Church is the same as in the new Calendar Church.. As St. Paisios & others have said. I happen to know this first hand, as I attended both Churches and have seen things in both Churches than many others have not. I have even scolded my new calendar priestly cousin on this, who told me wonders don't happen in the old Calendar.. as I have scolded old Calendarists who claim wonders don't happen in the new Calendar. Keep arguing over a 13 day adjustment to the calendar since you wish to be fools. You will wonder, how can someone so vile like me see things. I will leave that to God. But in truth, I used to be a more pure person when I was younger. Free of hate, rage, and blasphemy.. Free of the adventures of the flesh. But even my adventures with the opposite sex did not stop some experiences with the divine. However my blasphemies did. They only stopped since I started blaspheming, because it is common in Greek culture to blaspheme when angry or insulting someone. Like I said, I am not a holy man, neither do I pretend to be one. Anyways, enough about me. This is not about me in the first place. You will say that maintaining communion ties is a political stunt and you are probably right, as I belong to those who are more pro-action oriented and would like to see communion cut with people like you. Not like it matters as I have shown above. But it's about making a statement. We all represent our Churches even though unofficially. I represent Constantinople as my name indicates. All my fore bearers represented Constantinople. I am deeply Constantinopolitan generations upon generations and that won't change anytime soon. Unlike the vast majority of Greeks who would dismiss you without bothering to reply to you, I am more vocal. Which is why I am here. But I would love to know which Church you represent, so that it would be easier to identify who we should cut ties with. Since you and your members are so hostile to us, I can only imagine what is said behind closed doors by your clergy and laity.
Theodoros 7/26/2020 9:37 pm
To Greek of Constantinople, You make some good points that are well taken. To clarify my views however. I am not pro Kyril and anti Bartholomew. This is not a matter of personalities. Saint Paul in the New Testament condemns factionalism. I happen to believe that the Russians happen to be in the right on the matter of the Ukrainian issue. There really needs to be a pan Orthodox council to resolve this which I expect would rule in favor of the canonical synod of Ukraine under Metropolitan Onuphry. Patriarch Bartholomews intervention in Ukraine was a destructive act. To add fuel to the fire he has made some inflammatory statements ( the notorious "our people" statement) that have contributed to the split between the Greek Churches and the rest of Orthodoxy. No Orthodox Christian should want or desire the schism that has erupted over Ukraine. Patriarch Bartholomew would have been better off spending his time defending his Churches and property in Constantinople and working to prevent the conversion of Hagia Sophia.
Theodoros 7/26/2020 3:56 pm
To Nick, Hagia Sophia was one of the Great Churches of history. It was named specifically for the holy wisdom of Christ. There are those of us who think its reconversion into a Mosque is blasphemous. That is fine if you do not agree, but there are those of us who think that this is a serious offense perpetrated by a anti Christian country with a history of genocide. In addition to Hagia Sophia, the Turks have destroyed Churches in occupied Cyprus. This is not going to stop with Hagia Sophia either. This is a sign of further evils to come.
Alexander Leitner7/26/2020 12:38 pm
"The priest that serves the Blood and Body of Christ in my Church is no more unworthy than the priest who serves the Blood and Body of Christ in your Church." To make things short: yes, he is more unworthy. Priests in schism, having communion with schismatics, communion with ecumenists, modernists, innovators, apostates, etc...are more unworthy. And it is not a "greek - russian" thing, it is about being orthodox or not. The Old Calendarists of greece are not ecumenists, not modernists,... they are against Bartholomew too and they are greeks. This had nothing to do with Patriarch Kyrill or nationality. The Greek New Calendar Church is on the highway to apostasy. This is even written and preached by GREEKS. ( Elder Philotheos Zervakos, Elder Gervasios of Patras, Eldress Myrtidiotissa...) Stop making apostasy a question of nationality. When we say "greek" we are talking about the majority and not the nationality in general.
A Greek of Constantinople7/26/2020 8:07 am
You might not like my comment and believe me I am being polite and generous. I am aware that people can speak their mind, that is very fine by me.. so long as other peoples thought are also heard. Anyone can say what ever they want and believe what ever they want. I myself am no exception. You know, I saw Photios comment on Theodoros and I laughed. Why did I laugh you may ask? Because I know Theodoros is pro-Kyrill and anti-Bartholomew. But still he got criticized as if the post was being addressed to me, and he got criticized solely on his ethnicity. Because that is what happened here.. Photios assumed that just because Theodoros is Greek, he is 'obviously' like all the rest of the Greeks who 'obviously' back Bartholomew. Generalization, demagoguery, stereotyping, claiming to know God's will, and guilt tripping are all present in one reply. Don't stone the messenger, it's all there.. like it or not. I see many people have lost their wits and partly I am entertained by it but also angry. Now perhaps you understand why I am so angry or you have not understood that yet Theodore? But since God's will is tossed around so casually as if we live in the middle ages and accusations of heresy and apostasy are tossed around just as easily as at a Spanish inquisition hearing.. and since I am obviously labelled as an "eccumenist" and a "modernist" witch. Allow me to put this thought forward.. That Perhaps God is showing you a sign with all the deaths in the Russian Church, and the Serbian Church, and the Polish Church from COVID-19. Perhaps this is God's punishment for the offenses committed against your Greek brothers and insults directed against the "First among equals" and the see of St. Andrew. Don't think it has not crossed my mind, but I never came out to say it because I am being reserved and polite. But since so many others think the opposite, I see not reason to keep silent. Yes even I have a certain level that I won't go bellow, even though Theodore has claimed I openly bash Russia and Russians (I know this site is Russian) all the time. Yet I have never mocked at any of the deaths from Covid or any misfortune that hits the Russian Church under these comments. Because I know that is a cheap-shot. A sucker punch. It is an attack bellow the belt. It is disgraceful and it is beneath me. I am sick and tired of seeing Orthodox write such vile comments about other Orthodox. Claiming to know God's will and punishment, as I am sick and tired of reading all the antihellenic rhetoric in the comments from a supposedly God fearing flock that blaspheme, insult, throw accusations, make assumptions, on a daily basis against people they don't even know. My grandfather was a priest (after WW2) as are my cousins (today). Your Holy Communion is no different from ours. Our mass is no different from yours. The priest that serves the Blood and Body of Christ in my Church is no more unworthy than the priest who serves the Blood and Body of Christ in your Church. I am disgusted by what I read from supposed "Orthodox" who think a "pan-Orthodox" synod will 'magically make right' the hate of the last 6 years. I am ashamed that we share the word "Orthodox". Not that I am claiming to be an angel or a holyman, but I don't go around behaving like a medieval Latin troglodyte cleric that saw the Constantinople for the first time and started condemning everyone and everything.. You know who I speak of. What many of you are doing is pure hate and leads to hate.. and trust I know how to cultivate hate in my heart and spread it to others. Like I said elsewhere this will become a real schism and don't think I won't judge on an ethnic basis. I myself don't forget easily, and I will make sure than even my children's children don't forget either. Since I am such a proud person as someone put it, know that my replies are copyrighted. I know they are good because I saw some people copy-paste me on twitter and elsewhere.. Verbatim. You should hire me Orthochristian!
Thinker7/26/2020 3:52 am
To everyone who didn't like Hagia Sophia being turned into a beautiful mosque, start protesting first by going to your local churches they are so empty. Thank you :)
Nick7/25/2020 10:24 pm
An Orthodox Christian living in Russia here. I've been following the story about turning the Hagia Sofia cathedral back into a mosque and I'm surprised by all the indignation. The Byzantine Empire ended about 500 years ago when it was conquered by the Ottomans, and the Ottomans acted in accordance with their beliefs and turned Hagia Sofia into a mosque. What else do you expect? If you get conquered, then you can't expect kind treatment for your cultural sites, your women and your possessions. If that bothers you, then 1) don't get conquered, or 2) once conquered, regroup, re-arm and reconquer what you lost. 500 years of complaining will not help you. Also, the Orthodox Faith doesn't need the Hagia Sofia cathedral to be true and complete, just like it doesn't need any one person or group of people. So, if one church ends up becoming a mosque, burns down or explodes, then build another one. If one Patriarch starts saying/doing heretical and strange things and it's not possible to correct him, then don't listen to him, clearly point out the error and excommunicate him. Correct me if I've got something wrong here, but isn't the focus on worshiping the True and Living God, in the person of Jesus Christ? An undue focus on certain unfortunate buildings or personages seems like a distraction from the main theme.
Theodoros 7/25/2020 7:01 pm
To Photius, As a member of one of the Greek Churches, I am fully aware of the spiritual crisis affecting Greek Orthodoxy. As my comments have indicated I am also aware of the tremendous wrong and persecution against the Churches of Ukraine and Montenegro by schismatics who are backed by their governments. I will refer to comments made by Archbishop Alexy of Voznesensk of the canonical Church in Ukraine who dismissed the idea that what is happening to Hagia Sophia is a punishment from God. The Archbishop correctly pointed out that Hagia Sophia does not belong to the Patriarchate or the Turkish Government, but to God. These statements appeared on the site of Union of Orthodox journalists. Furthermore, in an interview that appeared on the Moscow Patriarchate's website Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev also dismissed the idea that this is God's punishment of Patriarch Bartholomew. The movement to convert Hagia Sophia has been a long time in coming and began before both the pseudo-Council of Crete and before Patriarch Bartholomew instigated the Ukrainian Crisis. Whether indeed God is punishing the Phanar is difficult for us to say. In any case, Turkey is one of the most anti Christian countries in the world and has a history of genocide and mass murder against Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians. This seizure of Hagia Sophia is a demonstration of Turkish ultranationalism and Islamic triumphalism and is an independent of the wrongs the Greek Churches have inflicted on the Ukrainian Church. For what its worth, I happen to be of the opinion that Patriarch Bartholomew should be given an option by the Orthodox Churches. Either repent and reverse himself entirely in Ukraine or be deposed.
Alexander Leitner7/25/2020 6:29 pm
Bartholomew has to e deposed immediatly. Not because of Ukraine alone. All his scandals, ecumenism, modernism, liberalism,... there have been online petitions to depose him with subscriptions from all over the orthodox world - many greek Hierarchs. Open letters, warnings...depose him now and also the Greek Archbishop of USA.
Fr William Bauer7/25/2020 5:42 pm
Praying to a false god is like telling me that the alleged god has "good thoughts" for me.
Photios7/25/2020 6:07 am
Theodoros, No truly orthodox Christian in his right mind would "support" the heresy of Constantinople, but we do all grieve when one of our places of worship is converted into a place where the false god of mohammed is worshiped by the infidels of Islam, but you reap what you sow Theodoros! Your analysis does not take into account the providence of God. God allowed this, and the question is....why? Why did God not prevent this? The answer lies in the evil committed by your bishops, and the fact that the "Greek Faithful" did nothing, because of their ethnic pride and "hellenic" nationalism. None of you said "we are the body of Christ regardless of our ethnicity, and Bartholomew sins against our Russian brothers" most greeks were very happy and even the so called "traditional new calendarists" were defending Bartholomew. In the old Testament God allowed His temples to be converted into places where Baal was worshiped! Why? The Holy Bible clearly tells us that it was punishment for His people that had turned away from Him. Your false and divisive patriarch has committed the same kinds of evil sins against the Church of Christ for decades,and now he places his hope in the Americans (not God, or Orthodox believers) to save him and Hagia Sophia. God is Just and righteous Theodoros. When the Orthodox Christians in Syria and Iraq were being butchered by ISIS and Erdogan, your Patriarch was silent! God forgive us all!
A Greek of Constantinople7/24/2020 11:52 pm
A little thought on what could have been. Russia failed in her foreign policy towards the rest of the Orthodox from the time she was an Empire. They defeated the Ottoman Empire on numerous occasions, sometimes totally. Yet they failed to capitalize on the success and liberate or occupy any Orthodox territory held by the Ottomans. Instead they expanded and occupied central Asia and Siberia, which could have been done even during an expansion Southwards into the Balkans. Had Russia had a different policy, a more Orthodox oriented vision, she would have incorporated the Orthodox of the Ottoman Empire into her Empire and that means the entire Balkans and Anatolia. Especially when back then Anatolia itself had millions of Orthodox and Constantinople had a 50% Greek population. Today there are but a few thousands left after a century of genocide and systemic oppression. The Russian Empire as a state could have survived to this day, ensured the freedom of all the Orthodox who would have been her citizens. It would also have solidified her claim as "Third Rome" and control over the Pentarchy. However Russia never or never fully supported the uprisings and revolutions of the Orthodox populations under the Ottoman yoke. Russia did not fully develop the concept of a "pan-Orthodox" Empire, unlike the Muslims who viewed the Ottoman Empire as a successor state to the Caliphate. We see the results of this lukewarm policy today. A weaker Orthodoxy and a Russian state surrounded by hostiles and former allies. In case it is not obvious, the alliances formed today are all against Russia. Even China has not hidden her ambitions to take over Siberia, and at some point in the future they will align with the side that offers to them Siberia and Central Asia.
Theodoros 7/24/2020 4:06 pm
This dark road began in 2013 with the conversion of the former Church of Hagia Sophia in Trebizond. Since then other former Churches also named Hagia Sophia in Edirne (Adrianople) and Iznik (Nicea) have also been converted into Mosques. Both the Greek Churches and others waited much too long to begin to protest and only when the Turkish President was firmly committed to converting Hagia Sophia. Two major developments contributing to this outrage. First, the Turkish Coup of 2016 in which President Erdogan's Islamic Revolution was able to consolidate itself. In my view, the conversion of Hagia Sophia has less to do with domestic politics and more to do with Islamic triumphalism and Turkish nationalism. It is a symbol and this can be seen following the glorification of the conquest of Constantinople on May 29, 2020. The second development was Patriarch Bartholomew's intervention in Ukraine which created a crisis in Orthodoxy. Metropolitan Serapheim of Pireaus and the Russian Synod are both correct in stating that the schism made it difficult for Orthodoxy to confront a crisis in a united manner. On the bright side, the Churches of Russia, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Antioch, Jerusalem. Georgia, Albania, and the Czeck lands and Slovakia expressed support for Constantinople on the matter of Hagia Sophia. This show of support is an opportunity for reconciliation and should not be wasted. Patriarch Bartholomew should finally agree to convene a Pan Orthodox council and should abide by the universal Church's decisions which would likely rule in favor of the Russians and the canonical Church in Ukraine.
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