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    Greek Church Bells Toll in Mourning for Hagia Sophia as Muslims Hold First Friday Prayer

    Greek Church Bells Toll in Mourning for Hagia Sophia as Muslims Hold First Friday Prayer

    Head of Greek Orthodox Church: Converting Hagia Sophia to mosque an “unholy act of sacrilege.”
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    Church bells across Greece tolled in mourning on Friday as neighboring Turkey held its first Islamic prayer marking the conversion of Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque, Greek newspapers reported. Hagia Sophia, the first cathedral of the Eastern Roman Empire, is particularly sacred to Christian Orthodox believers, represented largely by the Greek Church. 

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led Muslims into prayer at the sixth century cathedral amid the chants of Allahu Akbar, the Islamic cry of jihad and conquest. “A group of men waved Turkish flags and chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’,” BBC reported. “Mosaics and frescoes of Jesus and Mary were draped with curtains.” The status of the historic Christian site was changed by a Turkish presidential decree. 

    Head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, declared July 24 a ‘day of mourning’ to mark the loss of the holy site.

    Erdogan’s regime is carrying out an “unholy act of sacrilege” against a “holy spiritual center for our Orthodox faith, of Christianity in general, and of a symbol of our faith,” the Archbishop said

    The patriarch also slammed world leaders for their cowardice in the face of the Islamic usurpation of one of Christianity’s holiest places, saying: “I am deeply grieved that the powerful of this world, at least the majority of them, are hiding behind their finger, or rather behind their own geopolitical and geostrategic designs.”

    The Athens-based daily Kathimerini reported Greek response: 

    The official conversion on Friday of the historic former Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque was greeted with disdain and indignation by Greece’s political leadership, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying it was not a demonstration of Turkey’s power but “evidence of weakness.” (…)

    “Especially for us Greek Orthodox Christians, Hagia Sophia is more a part of our souls today than ever. It is where our hearts beat, turning sorrow into strength, composure and unity,” Mitostakis said.

    In a statement, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the conversion cast a dark shadow over Turkey’s reputation.

    The leader of main opposition SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras said that the conversion, which also coincided with the anniversary of the the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, “marks another step away by Turkey from the universal values that are the basis for peace and mutual respect in our region.”

    “It essentially undermines interfaith dialogue… no conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, however, can falsify or erase its history and its universal symbolism,” Tsipras said.

    “As a Greek I feel bitter and angry,” said European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.

    Church bells tolled mournfully around Greece to the sound of Byzantine hymns while at Hagia Sophia clerics sang from the Koran, with mosaics and frescoes of Jesus and Mary draped with curtains. The ceremony in Istanbul began with the recitation of verses from the Koran by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself.

    Consecrated by Byzantine emperor Justinian in the year 537, the cathedral fell into Muslim hands when Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) was sacked by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Turks used it to a mosque, adding four minarets to its central dome. Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum in 1934 when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, abolished the Istanbul-based global Islamic caliphate in order to modernize the country.

    Demonstrators in Greek capital Athens and other cities marched against Turkey’s growing Islamist imperial ambitions, denouncing “the second capture of Constantinople by the Turks,” France-based boadcaster EuroNews reported.

    Turkey’s Erdogan responded to growing criticism from Europe and the West by playing the Islamophobia card. He slammed Western countries for “not take a step against Islamophobia.”

    To add insult to injury, Turkey’s top imam took to the pulpit carrying a sword, a symbol of Islamic conquest over non-Muslims. Iman with his “his hands clasped on the hilt of the sword of conquest, gave his sermon,” The New York Times reported

    ‘Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis hits out at Hagia Sophia becoming a mosque’

    (Cover image via YouTube)


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    This is so sad. We visited the Hagia Sophia last year and what an experience! Our guide, a Muslim, told us at the time that work had begun on renovations of the Byzantine artwork and he was glad this was being done to preserve its beauty. Unfortunately, Erdogan had other plans. Now the artwork has been covered up with fabric. Let’s hope it won’t be defaced. Ataturk brought Turkey into the 20th Century. Erdogan has talen it back centuries!

      GatorGuy in reply to MAB. | July 26, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      And there you have it, the key distinction in all this: those who want the cathedral to be maintained as an emblem of Istanbul’s unique, intercultural and intercontinental heritage, and others who want to bend and ply the learned facts and the hard-studied conclusions of such colossally monumental history into their regionally hegemonic, geostrategic aims.

      Or, more simply put and reduced: Those who strive for the principle of Art for the sake of Art and all its history, understanding, and peace, and others who have no such international, aesthetic and irenic sense by daring and taunting at the regional nations’ competing cultural sensibilities via the host-nation’s narcissistic cultural infringements, thereby luring them into a condition of serious, international angst and possible conflict.

      It’s the need for mutual respect and understanding, resulting in peace, vs the need to dismiss and abandon these ennobling, natural tension-calming pursuits, regardless of the predictable international consequences.

      Even when as early humans, living in caves, there were — we may infer from the available evidence — those who enjoyed the wonders of peace, and others who thrived on the blood-spilling savagery of violent aggression.

      Either way, the greatest possible split into the civility of the one vs the incivility of the other seems to come with being human.

      No big find, here, I admit; just paying honest, close, and vital attention, as best I can, to our recorded, more or less accepted, common nature.

    CommoChief | July 25, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Hopefully the Turkish government will continue to protect and restore the structure, preserving the artistic heritage.

    I am not sure why folks find this act to be surprising. This was preordained the moment the EU ignored Turkey’s fulfillment of the many conditions and requirements for membership in the EU.

    At the time Turkey was still controlled by the moderate western oriented predecessor of Erdogen. The rejection of EU membership despite the compliance of Turkey to the preconditions of the EU was the major reason why Erdogen was able to come into power.

    The Turks felt betrayed and belittled by the EU. Understandably they gravitated towards the man who promised to stand up against these perceived and actual humiliations.

    Since Erdogen came to power he has slowly but steadily sought to increase the prestige, power and influence of Turkey in the Islamic world and utilize the geographic position of Turkey to gain respect from the West.

    The involvement of Turkey in Syria and this latest action are calculated to enhance and influence opinion in the Islamic world and to poke a finger at the EU. Not to mention the fact that Greeks and Turks will take any opportunity to knife each other.

    The Turks felt isolated and ignored by the EU and by the U.S. to a lesser degree. One thing is for sure, no one in power is ignoring the Turks today.

    Kepha H | July 25, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Erdogan believes he has delivered an “Ottoman slap” to the entire Christian world. His Turkey is no longer and ally of the West.

    Guahan | July 26, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Another prime example is the Muslim conquest of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the 7th century and the erection thereon of the Dome of the Rock shrine and the Al Aqsa Mosque. To this day, the Temple Mount is controlled by Muslim religious authorities and Jews are not allowed to pray at the site of their two ancient Jewish temples. Can you imagine what would happen if the Israelis did to the Temple Mount what the Turks have done to Hagia Sophia!

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