Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - The decision to convert the monumental complex of Ayasofia in Istanbul into a mosque "risks sowing division in a world in search of common ground". This was stated by the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia in a joint statement sent to Agenzia Fides. In the statement, the two leaders, Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios, say they want to join their voices "with the many others who, all over the world, have expressed deep regret for the recent decision by Turkey to change the status of Ayasofya".
The structure, a Christian cathedral for over 900 years before becoming a mosque in the 15th century, had been transformed into a centuries-old museum in 1935. Recently the Turkish government's decision to turn it into a mosque again.
"Over the past 85 years, the building has represented a true emblem of world cultural heritage and a symbol of inclusiveness. Our fear is that this may aggravate the tension between Christians and Muslims at a time when we must pursue the path of dialogue and seek common ground. The path of nationalist ideology and the political decisions it suggests can only lead to division, which is never the result of the wisdom that all religions seek", reads the note from the two Australian religious leaders.
The archbishops expressed their prayers for the Turkish people, especially for Christians, "very saddened by this decision".
"We also pray that, over time, there may be a reversal and that Ayasofya may once again be a common ground for everyone and an emblem of peace", they concluded.
As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said in early July, Ayasofya was reopened for Islamic worship with the prayer on Friday 24 July. The announcement had been preceded by a ruling by the Turkish Council of State, which effectively canceled the decree of 1934 with which the ancient Byzantine basilica was converted into a museum. (LF-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 25/7/2020)