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Thursday, February 7, 2013

TURKEY: Patriarchate against Agia Sophia opening


The Fener Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate supports the continued use of the historical Hagia Sophia in Trabzon as a museum, not as a mosque.

“As is known, Trabzon is not urgently in need of a mosque, and it is also known that there is no Orthodox community there. The best way is to keep the church as a museum,” Dositheos Anagnostopulos, the Patriarchate’s press officer told the Hürriyet Daily News in a phone interview yesterday.

The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate holds annual ceremonies in the Sümela Monastery in Trabzon province with a special permit issued by the Ministry of Culture.

Asked whether the Patriarchate would demand to hold ceremonies in Hagia Sophia as well, Anagnostopulos said that if the ministry permitted it and the Orthodox community desired it, this would be their duty, not only a desire.

The Foundations Directorate had announced Feb. 4 that the Hagia Sophia in Trabzon would soon be opened up for prayers. 

Foundations Directorate Head Adnan Ertem said five of the seven Hagia Sophias nationwide were currently functioning as mosques, but two were still inactive, adding that the culture minister was the “occupying force” in the decision to reopen Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia. 

“We have won the court case regarding the situation,” Ertem said. “We are planning to open the place for prayers again after the necessary processes are completed.” 

The Hagia Sophia Museum was first dedicated as an Orthodox patriarchal basilica in 360 A.D. Until the year of 1453 it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople. Following the city’s conquest by the Ottoman Empire, the building was converted into a mosque in 1453 and remained so until 1931, when it was closed to the public for four years. It was reopened by the republican authorities in 1935 as a museum. 

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