Bartholomew: turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque would cause a rift between Christians and Islam
by NAT da Polis

The holiness of Hagia Sophia constitutes a vital centre where west and east can meet; its conversion into a mosque will a drive a wedge between these two worlds.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The possible conversion of Hagia Sophia (pictured: a mosaic) into a mosque will push Christians of the world against Islam, said yesterday Bartholomew, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, during the Mass for the feast day of the Holy Apostles.

The Patriarch spoke on the eve of a Turkish court's ruling on the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, a pet project of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, one repeatedly trumpeted by various ministers.

Bartholomew notes that the holiness of Saint Sophia constitutes a vital centre, where west and east can meet; its conversion into a mosque would drive a wedge between these two worlds.

It is absurd, the ecumenical patriarch added, that Saint Sophia, the meeting and admiration point between these two worlds, could pit the two against each other, and this in the 21st century.

For the ecumenical patriarch, Saint Sophia does not belong only to those who own it, but to humanity as whole. Thus, the people of Turkey have the great responsibility and great honour to highlight the universality of this historic monument.

As a museum, Hagia Sophia constitutes a place of meeting, dialogue, solidarity, and understanding between these two worlds.

As observed in diplomatic circles, Bartholomew is appealing to the civic conscience and magnanimity of the Turkish people, in this historic point in time. Last week, the Patriarch told the Washington Post that he could not understand the position taken by Tayip Erdoğan,

In light of ongoing geopolitical tensions, many people are hoping for a wise compromise, as a way out.

In fact, Erdoğan himself, in 2013, when then Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç spoke of turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque, reminded him that the famous Blue Mosque, which is across from the Constantinian Basilica, is also empty.