Patriarch Bartholomew: "Hagia Sophia belongs to all humanity"

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Patriarch Bartholomew: "Hagia Sophia belongs to all humanity"

en.abouna.org and catholicnewsagency.com

While Turkey’s president has made moves to close the museum at the former Christian basilica Hagia Sophia and revert it to a mosque, the Patriarch of Constantinople has said the massive site should remain as it is, a place of Christian-Muslim encounter that belongs “to all of humanity.”

The Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said, “the Turkish people have the great responsibility and honor to make the universality of this wonderful monument shine,” given that as a museum it is “the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the place of Hagia Sophia in his homily during Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Istanbul June 30, Fides news agency reports.

Hagia Sophia “belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity,” he said.

Patriarch Bartholomew said it is “absurd and harmful that Hagia Sophia, from a place that now allows the two peoples to meet us and admire its greatness, can again become a reason for contrast and confrontation.” He said the Hagia Sophia is a center of life “in which East and West embrace.” To convert it to a mosque “will cause a break between these two worlds.”

While the Eastern Orthodox Christian world is currently riled over disputes surrounding the Patriarch of Constantinople’s recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as independent of Moscow, Russian Orthodox leaders have spoke out in favor of the status quo at Hagia Sophia.

“A threat against Hagia Sophia is a threat to all of Christian civilization, meaning our spirituality and history,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow said July 6. He said the former basilica of Constantinople is “one of the biggest monuments of Christian civilization”.

“What could happen to Hagia Sophia would cause deep pain among the Russian people,” said the Russian Orthodox patriarch.
Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Sahak II Mashalian, an Oriental Orthodox leader, has suggested making Hagia Sophia a site of worship for both Christians and Muslims.

The Basilica of Hagia Sophia was built in 537 under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. For a time it was the largest building in the world and the largest Christian church. It served as the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople before and after the Great Schism split Western and Eastern Christianity into Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. After the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, the basilica was converted into a mosque. Under the Ottomans, architects added minarets and buttresses to preserve the building, but the mosaics showing Christian imagery were whitewashed and covered.

In 1934, under a secularist Turkish government, the mosque was turned into a museum. Some mosaics were uncovered, including depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Justinian I, and Zoe Porhyrogenita.

It was declared a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. If the museum becomes a mosque, it is believed that the mosaics will have to be covered during Muslim prayers, as well as the seraph figures located in the high basilica dome.

It is incumbent on world leaders to help brush aside religious disputes, resort to logic, and exert utmost efforts to serve humanity.

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 11:43
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