Washington, D.C., July 30, 2020
On July 23, the day before the Agia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul officially reopened as a mosque, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed an amendment objecting to Turkey’s abuse of the iconic 6th-century Church, reports the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The amendment was brought forth by Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) and co-sponsored by six other Democrats and one Republican. It calls on the State Department to
denounce Turkey for taking formal action to change the status of Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site spiritually significant to people of many faiths and backgrounds, from a museum to a mosque; and to engage with Turkey for the purpose of returning its status to a museum so as to welcome people of all faiths and those who have marveled at its architectural and artistic splendor.
In the video below, Congresswoman Titus speaks about Turkey’s “affront to religious pluralism” and urges the State Department to take appropriate measures:
The same day, Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Archdiocese met with both President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House to discuss the Agia Sophia matter.
The State Department then issued a statement reiterating its disappointment at Turkey’s actions. The statement reads:
As we have said previously, the United States is disappointed by the Government of Turkey’s decision to change the status of the Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque.
The Hagia Sophia is a testament not only to religious expression, but also to artistic and technical genius. We note the government of Turkey committed to preserving and displaying the Hagia Sophia’s historic religious iconography and ensuring accessibility without impediment to all visitors.
The United States calls on the government of Turkey to maintain the legacy of this remarkable building and its unsurpassed ability—so rare in the modern world—to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures.