Greek Orthodox, Catholic archbishops lament Hagia Sophia move

Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Archbishop Makarios

The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia say Hagia Sophia’s revised status as a mosque risks sowing division in a world seeking common ground.

In a statement signed by Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Archbishop Makarios released today, the two leaders “join our voices to the many around the world who have expressed deep regret at the recent decision in Turkey to change the status of Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya”.

Hagia Sophia, which was a Christian cathedral for more than 900 years before becoming a mosque in the 15th century, became a secular museum in 1935. After a decision earlier this month, it has again become a mosque, with Friday prayers set to resume there today.

The archbishops said the grand building has, for the past 85 years, been “a monument of world cultural heritage and a symbol of inclusivity”.

“Our fear is that this could aggravate tension between Christians and Muslims at a time when we need to pursue the path of dialogue and seek common ground,” the statement says.

“The path of nationalist ideology and the political decisions it prompts can lead only to division, which is never the fruit of the holy wisdom all religions seek.”

The archbishops prayed for the people of Turkey, including the Christians “who have been especially grieved by this decision”.

“We pray too that in time the decision will be reversed, so that Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya can again be common ground for all people and an emblem of peace,” they concluded.