In a press release published Thursday, June 18, the catholic bishops of Turkey have announced their decision not to challenge the plans to transform the great early christian basilica Istanbul mosque.
Not that they want to. But “although we wish that hagia Sophia retains its character as a museum, it is not for us to intervene or even give our opinion on a decision that concerns only the Republic of Turkey “, they pointed out, indicating to be a Church deprived of legal status and could not therefore “give no advice on the internal issues of this country “. For a long time, the christian minorities complain about being discriminated against in Turkey, where they are struggling to recruit their clergy and to obtain a building permit.
Decision on 2 July
This statement came after calls from the Turkish government for that hagia Sophia be converted into a mosque have attracted many international protests. A plan of conversion must be approved by the highest court of Turkey on 2 July.
The catholic bishops have reminded that the hagia Sophia, that the popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have visited, is born as “a church in communion with Rome “but became orthodox after the schism of 1054 between the Churches of east and west. The building then served as a mosque for nearly five centuries after the ottoman of Constantinople, in 1453.
On the side of the orthodox, the Church of neighboring Greece, for its part, rejected the plan of conversion provided, recalling that the hagia Sophia is a “a masterpiece of architectural genius, the world recognized as one of the monuments of eminent of christian civilization “. “Any change will cause a sharp protest and frustration among the christians of the whole world, and will harm Turkey itself,”said the synod, June 12.
In a tweet on 13 June, the archbishop Sahak Masalyan, patriarch of Armenian orthodox of Constantinople, proposed to allow muslims and christians to pray in the hagia Sophia, which attracted 3.3 million visitors per year before the pandemic. He said that the two faiths could not afford “the luxury of a new argument of the cross and the crescent “.
→ UNDERSTAND. The history of hagia Sophia Istanbul
A few days earlier, the Russian orthodox Church had also called on Turkey to maintain ” open access to all “, warning that a change of status to Sainte-Sophie “violates the fragile balance of inter-confessional “.
Unesco, which has declared hagia Sophia a world heritage site in 1985, recalled that a change in the use of the monument would require an international consultation.
A claim recurring islamist milieus
Do so again in the hagia Sophia of Istanbul, a place of worship a muslim is a claim recurring environments islamist turks for almost twenty years. The argument most frequently invoked is the lack of legal value of decree of 1934, which made the monument a museum : it would never have been published in The official Journal and the signature of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk would be a fake.
In recent years, especially since the missed putsch of July 2016, the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has multiplied the bursts in Sainte-Sophie. In 2017, he had discussed the possibility of making a new mosque in response to the recognition by the president Trump Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This idea was again revived in the year 2019, his Party, the justice and development party (AKP) to appear in a very bad position for the municipal.
In may, he confirmed that he hoped to cancel the decree of Ataturk and reopen the monument to the muslim cult. And on 15 June, the minister of justice Abdulahmit Gül stated that it was“a question of sovereignty “ and that this decision reflected the “common wish “ of all the citizens.