By Metropolitan Gabriel of Nea Ionia, Filadelfeia, Irakleio, and Chalkidona
One wonders if, for the second time in the history of the Greek nation, we are experiencing the fall of Constantinople again.
In fact, in a time of peace and progress, of human rights and religious freedoms, we face a profound violation of our religious sentiment, our origins, our universal culture, and our right to memory and hope.
As of tonight, the Church of Hagia Sophia, the sacred epicentre of Christianity, the “Acropolis” of Orthodoxy, has been converted into a Muslim place of worship, a mosque.
I wonder… why there is again so much hatred in the guise of religion? Why there is the instrumentation of our religious rights? Why there is so much insecurity? Why, even after so many centuries, does the Christian message of love, solidarity, respect for others, social progress and reconciliation continues to frighten people?
It seems that sorrow and indignation overwhelm our hearts at this time. We feel sorrow and shame because of this blatant injustice. Tears well up in our eyes, when we consider upon the desecration of sacred monuments, of world religious symbols, of our common heritage as reflected in the blood-soaked stones of Hagia Sophia.
Has Hagia Sophia fallen?
The answer is no, my brethren!
The Greek-Christian spirit, the religious tradition of Constantinople, as long as the successor of the Apostle Andreas and the Holy Chrysostomos is alive, our Ecumenical Patriarch will continue to shine shaking the unrelenting sense of shame that hovers like a dark cloud. He will continue to witness our long tradition and the continuation of Hellenism through its Byzantine integration.
So, it is high time we showed our orthodox mindset and our spiritual courage. We do not hate our neighbours, we do not seek war. We want them to respect us in the same way we respect them.
We want them to respect and protect our monuments and minorities, to respect the Greeks living in Constantinople, to respect the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to respect our Ecumenical Patriarch and his ecumenical message. We want them to recognise the world-historical and cultural status of Hagia Sophia, to recognise the Orthodox Holy Church of all Greeks.
Let us pray, during this difficult time, for our Ecumenical Patriarch, my brethren. Let us pray for the leaders around the world. Let us ask God to open their eyes and to eliminate hatred and fanaticism.
Let us show them the way of love and prayer.
Christ is in our midst!