In an interview with La Repubblica newspaper, the Catholic priest and monk Claudio Monge, head of the Dominican Interfaith Dialogue Center in Constantinople, comments on the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
“Erdogan’s affront affects Hagia Sophia as a marvel of art and architecture, as a tangible testimony to a complex and multi-layered history, which is also affected as an inexhaustible source of research, a crossroads of arts, religions and cultures,” stressed the Catholic priest who lives in Constantinople over the past seventeen years.
“Everything else is part of a propaganda rhetoric that instrumentally uses the sacred and its symbols, arousing emotional reactions, which feed an Islam-West polarization. That is a vulgar simplification,” says Father Monge. At the same time, he reminds us that “a large part of Islam, in the East and the West, has condemned this initiative” of the Turkish president.
According to the Catholic priest, who is well aware of the Turkish reality “behind the challenge against the West, there is a need for the domestic supporters who become fewer and fewer to stand together by diverting attention from clearly important issues, such as the economic situation. A situation which was already problematic and became dreadful due to the pandemic.”
“Erdogan is playing the nationalist pride card and finding a response in a particular West, in which the logic of the Crusades is alive,” the Dominican clergyman concludes.