Rome / Istanbul (Catholic news / CBA). The Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I is opposed to a conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The late antique building was "built to bear witness to the Christian Faith," the honorary head of world Orthodoxy said, according to the Vatican Press Office Asianews (Thursday). "If it returns to serve a religion, it can be no other than the Christian one." Bartholomew commented on the opening of a summit meeting with other Orthodox church leaders at his official residence in Istanbul, the Phanar. Several politicians had brought it into the conversation with a view to the local elections in late March in Istanbul, among others by the ruling AKP of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to re-use of the Hagia Sophia as an Islamic place of worship. The Ecumenical Patriarch called the Hagia Sophia a testimony to the "historical and continuing presence of Christian thought in this country." To the claims for reopening the building as a mosque, he said: "We stand against this, however, and with us, all Christians, whether Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant." Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th Century on the site of an earlier building under Constantine by the Emperor Justinian I (527-565), and it later served as the coronation church of Byzantine rulers. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, it was converted into a mosque. The founding president of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1934 ordered its conversion into a museum.
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Photo: Bartholomew I - Image source: Wikipedia / Massimo Finizio
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