The Islamo-nationalist turn of the Turkish government is confirmed by the highly symbolic conversion of the Chora Church into a mosque, as it was reported by the daily La Libre in Constantinople.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew condemned the conversions, saying that political leaders had hastily made those decisions as if Constantinople did not have enough mosques, as if there were not enough places of worship for the followers of the dominant religion. “This decision offends our identity, our history and our culture,” the Ecumenical Patriarch said, according to the article in the French daily newspaper which was cited by ethnos.gr.
“This is an ideological message,” Byzantine scholar Engin Akyurek said in an interview with Medyascope. Explaining briefly the concerns of the scientific community he added: “This is the most well-preserved church since the end of the Byzantine Empire. It is crucial for us to preserve the church the best way possible, whatever its use.”
“As in the case of Hagia Sophia, the aim of this decision is to flatter the electorate, to humiliate the Greeks and the Kemalists who want to keep Ataturk’s legacy intact,” a head of the Catholic Church explained on condition of anonymity. Catholics in Turkey are not directly affected by these decisions, but share the same concern with the people who see the country adopting a nationalist and aggressive stance.
Many observers believe that the Turkish President, weakened by a declining economy and a lack of political perspective within the country, is trying to cover the deficit by pursuing an aggressive foreign policy. At a time when Turkey is in confrontation with Greece over the Eastern Mediterranean, the conversions of these two churches into mosques send out a strong message to Europe, but above all, they united the nationalist-Islamic front that supports Erdogan.