Despite the opposition of the Orthodox world, on Friday, a Turkish court issued a verdict: Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, one of the most famous monuments of Christianity and Islam, converted into a mosque. The verdict declared the tenth of July and supersedes the decision made in 1934 to convert the buildings into a Museum, because the court deemed it illegal. The temple was built during the Byzantine reign of Justinian, he fifteen hundred years, and he was the heart of the Eastern Church, and served as the main Cathedral of the Byzantine Empire. The Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque after conquering Constantinople, now called Istanbul, in 1453. The temple is included in UNESCO’s world heritage list in 1985. For the first time as a Museum it was opened in 1935 after the decision of the Turkish Council of Ministers approved the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Since then, the Hagia Sophia symbolized the secularization and unity and was open to believers of different religions.
The decision of the Turkish court has caused great concern to the international community, especially the Orthodox bishops, who had warned that the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque could have serious consequences. As transfers news Agency Orthodox Times, the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday expressed regret in connection with the fact, that her concern and the concern of other Orthodox churches in Turkey have not taken into account. In the Russian Orthodox Church stressed that this decision is not aimed at removing the existing contradictions, but on the contrary, can lead to more divisions. In the previous statement, the Patriarch Cyril, Metropolitan of Moscow and Patriarch of all Russia stated that the change in status may entail political consequences. Kirill stressed that the Russian Orthodox Church “with bitterness” as before, and now perceived and perceives any attempt to “humiliate or violate the millennial spiritual heritage of the Church of Constantinople. The threat of Hagia Sophia is a threat to the whole of Christian civilization, and hence our spirituality and history, said the Patriarch, adding: to this day for every Russian Orthodox person Hagia Sophia is a great Christian Shrine. The duty of any civilized state is to maintain balance: to reconcile the contradictions in society, and not to aggravate them.” Russian Patriarch thus gave to understand that the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque can seriously affect the development of Russian-Turkish relations. “We should take into account that Russia — a country with a majority Orthodox population. And therefore what can happen with Holy Sophia, speak in a deep sorrow in the Russian people,” — warned the head of the ROC, insisting on maintaining the Museum’s status of this monument, which “will serve the further development of relations between the peoples of Russia and Turkey, the strengthening of the interreligious world and the consent”.
After news of the change of status of the Hagia Sophia UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azul said: “We deeply regret the decision of the Turkish authorities adopted without prior consultation”. “The Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique Testament to the interaction of Europe and Asia for centuries. The status of the Museum of the Cathedral reflects the universal nature of his heritage and makes it a powerful symbol of dialogue,” said Audrey Azul. She noted that UNESCO has shared its concerns with Turkey in several letters and at the meeting with the Turkish representative to UNESCO. Audrey Azul again expressed regret that Turkey had made the decision without dialogue in any form or preliminary application. It encouraged the Turkish authorities “immediately start a dialogue to avoid straying from the versatility of this exceptional heritage, the preservation of which will be considered by the world heritage Committee at its next session”. In a statement issued on Friday, UNESCO reminded that as the Church of Hagia Sophia UNESCO world heritage as a Museum, this implies a number of legal obligations. “States are obliged to ensure that any changes do not affect the outstanding universal value of inscribed objects located on their territories. UNESCO must be notified in advance of any such changes, if necessary, are considered by the world heritage Committee,” — said in a statement. “UNESCO also reminds us that the effective, full and fair participation of communities and other stakeholders relevant to that object, is a necessary condition for the preservation of heritage and underline its uniqueness and importance. The purpose of this requirement is to protect and transfer the outstanding universal value of heritage, in the spirit of the Convention concerning the protection of world heritage,” said the UN organization. UNESCO urged Turkey “to immediately start a dialogue to prevent any harmful effects to the universal value of this exceptional heritage site”.
At the divine Liturgy on June 30, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of almost 300 million Orthodox Christians, said that the neutral status of Hagia Sophia is of fundamental importance for interreligious peace and harmony in the region. “Hagia Sophia as a Museum is a place and a symbol of the meeting, solidarity and understanding between Christianity and Islam,” he said, Recalling that the temple remained a place of Christian worship for almost 900 years, and the Muslim administration was done there for 500 years. According to Bartholomew, it would be highly unwise and detrimental in the twenty-first century to turn the Hagia Sophia in the reason for contradictions and conflicts, because it embodies the wisdom of God, and the believers of both religions can meet you there and admire his greatness. “Any conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will turn millions of Christians around the world against Islam. Hagia Sophia, a sacred place where East meets West, can divide these two worlds at the very moment when humanity is suffering from the deadly coronavirus pandemic, needs unity and common values,” — said the Patriarch of Constantinople, adding that “instead of uniting, we shared a 1500-year-old heritage.” “I am saddened and shocked,” he said, but he stressed that Orthodox Christians “lived for 17 centuries and will remain here forever, as God intended”.
The Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos also made a statement on the eve of the verdict. He said that given the turbulent past, to the merits of Turkey is the fact that for nearly a hundred years she has kept the Church as a Museum. “As a result, people all over the world and from all backgrounds can enjoy its spiritual, architectural and historical splendor,” said Theophilus, calling the Church a “symbol of tolerance”. Citing its own experience in the Holy Land, Theophilus noted that “equality promotes peace and mutual respect, while the claim to exclusivity has contributed to conflicts and bitterness”.
It is assumed that now the Hagia Sophia will function in the same way as the Blue mosque, which is nearby, to visit which tourists imposed temporary restrictions. Press Secretary of the Turkish President Ibrahim Kalin said earlier that the temple of sacred Sofia, regardless of the court verdict, will forever remain as a world heritage site. In turn, Pope Francis in a Sunday speech at St. Peter’s square, said he was upset the decision of Turkey to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
All these are attempts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to engage Islamist populism. The calming effect of this questionable move will not last long, and then the Turkish society faces acute problems because of the economic downturn Turkey in the past two years, the impoverished people. More than 40% of 1 537 people participated in the survey for the Istanbul economic research, called the economy the main issue for themselves, while 19% put on the first place of poverty. So the future of the Church of Hagia Sophia is not what the real concerns of the citizens of Turkey. The events surrounding this monument is an example of how instead of reforming the economy and improving the investment climate, Turkish politicians are playing political games, hoping to boost its popularity. Well, to open a religious Pandora’s box is a bad way to earn points for the Turkish authorities, and the authorities of the Orthodox countries. By the way, it is also abused state institutions in a similar politically motivated purposes. The President himself has the authority to make personal decisions about the transformation of the object into a mosque. Is not necessary to separately say that the courts should not in principle to participate in such politically motivated cases.
Because Erdogan cannot erase Ataturk and “Kemalism” from history, he interpreterpath their own way. Some of the main characters of “Kemalism” now serve pasmanski the agenda. In 1453, after conquering Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia of the Byzantine Christian Basilica turned into a mosque, and a Museum created in 1934 by order of atatürk. Now President Erdogan once again turns the Church into a mosque. During the celebrations in honor of the capture of Constantinople on may 29 in the Church of Hagia Sophia was read 48th Sura of the Koran (“Victory”). On the same day it announced the drilling in Greek waters. One of the rigs is called “the Conqueror”. So “anagasta” is largely Pomansky transformation of Kemalism.
The Hagia Sophia is too beautiful and too precious monument of the historic building, to serve as a pawn in regional politics. Successive Byzantine, Ottoman and Turkish authorities have defended the temple from the traces of time and thus adopted their own importance not only in your own eyes but in the eyes of future generations, including us.