July 19,, 2020
Protocol No. 29/2020
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Reverend Fathers and Faithful Laity of our God-Protected Diocese,
Today I write with a sense of great sadness, disgust, anger, determination, faith, and urgency.
On July 10, 2020 Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally converted The Great Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) into a mosque. Built in 537 AD during the reign of Emperor Justinian, for more than a millennium Hagia Sophia served as a place of rich spiritual and cultural inspiration for all. If you have ever been inside this World Heritage Site (I have visited it a couple of times) you know the awesomeness of this architectural wonder.
In 1453 when the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople, the Great Church of Christianity was converted into a mosque. Later however, in 1934, it was converted into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Transforming Hagia Sophia into a museum opened it up to all people of all faiths and not the property of any one religion. Over 3 million people visited each year.