In a radio interview with the BBC World Tonight show, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America sent out a clear message: the Archdiocese of America will never cease to work on the Hagia Sophia issue until it regains its status as a museum.
Moreover, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America commented on the meetings he had with President Trump and Vice-President Pence at the White House. He said that he got the impression that American leaders supported their demand and were in fact interested in religious minorities in Turkey. “I can tell you for sure that we will never cease to make efforts. This is just the beginning for us. We will launch a campaign. I had the opportunity to express concerns of all Orthodox Christians in the United States to President Trump, who received me at the White House, and to Vice-President Pence. They have clearly told me that they regretted the decision taken by Turkey and that they would support the minorities in Turkey and especially our Ecumenical Patriarchate,” Archbishop Elpidophoros pointed out.
He also referred to the promise made by Turkey that everyone would have access to Hagia Sophia. He said that accessibility to a mosque was a well-known practice that could not be considered as a gesture of goodwill. He explained that the problem lied in the privileged treatment of Muslim citizens of Turkey, as they will be the only ones, who will have the right to worship inside the monument of Hagia Sophia.
When he was asked about the motives of the Turkish government, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America said that there were internal political and economic problems within the country. “I do not know whether it is a sign of weakness, but I can assure you that it was not a wise decision. It was mainly an imposed decision and if I understand correctly, Turkey is at the moment in a difficult political and geostrategic situation and is perhaps facing severe financial difficulties. However, there are some monuments and ideas with great historical interest. They are significant monuments that peoples have been respecting over the centuries and, therefore, we can not ‘touch’ them as it is dangerous to play with such things,” he stressed.
Finally, he spoke of the day of mourning for all Christians, which he likened to Good Friday. “It is the day we mourn the decision made by the Turkish government to convert a monument of worldwide importance into a mosque. This caused us so much pain that we have declared that particular day a day of mourning. This day is for all Christians like Good Friday,” he said.