The Archbishop of Canterbury has lent his support to the Ecumenical Patriarch in the battle with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over plans to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Following the conquest of Constantinople the Ottoman Turks turned the ancient church into a mosque. However members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ruling party have called upon the government to overturn the decision made in the 1930s by Kemal Ataturk to turn the cathedral into a museum.
Archon news reports that during his visit with Patriarch Bartholomew I last month the Archbishop of Canterbury said Hagia Sophia “should not become a mosque.”
“That would be another loss, in which a great symbol of civilization throughout the world was transformed into a particular symbol of exclusivism,” the archbishop was quoted as saying.
No mention of Hagia Sophia was made, however, in the formal press statement released after the 13-14 January 2014 meeting in Istanbul between the Anglican and Orthodox leaders, and the archbishop’s comments could not be confirmed by his staff.
According to the Lambeth Palace Press Office, Archbishop Welby said that Patriarch Bartholomew had been “an example of peace and reconciliation, politically, with the natural world, and in your historic visit to the installation of His Holiness Pope Francis I.”
“Such reconciliation [is] very dear to my heart and is one of my key priorities. It is the call of Christ that all may be one so that the world may see. I will therefore be taking back with me the warmth of your hospitality and also, after our discussions today and tomorrow, a renewed and refreshed focus for greater unity and closer fellowship. We want to carry the cross of our divisions, but be filled with the hope and joy that comes from the grace and the love of Jesus,” the archbishop said.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.