There has been much discussion lately about the stance taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarch himself regarding the possibility of converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque by the Turkish government.
Some refer to the “silence” that comes from the Phanar and the Ecumenical Patriarch on such an important issue for Orthodoxy.
However, the position of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is well known, and has been reiterated many times in the past, even in statements to the Turkish media.
Specifically, as reported in aviketos.com, in an interview with Milliyet newspaper in 2013, he stressed that if the Hagia Sophia is to open as a place of worship, it must be a Christian church.
“It was built as a church, not as a mosque,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew explained, making clear that it would be preferable to remain a museum. He even suggested that the preservation of Hagia Sophia as a museum does not raise the temperature and cannot be an issue of contention between Christians and Muslims.
Moreover, at the beginning of 2014, in a speech delivered at the Phanar, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, reiterated, “If Hagia Sophia is to become a place of worship again, it should open as a church, because that is why it was built.”
“Recently, we have seen that there is a tendency to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque in some sections of public opinion. As a Church, we oppose this and the whole Christian world will react with us to such a possibility, stressed the Ecumenical Patriarch, and his statements had been widely publicized in the Turkish press.
Shortly afterwards, during his visit to Bonn, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke to DW saying, “Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, I believe, will not be converted into a mosque, good sense and Turkey’s real interest will prevail, that is, to keep Hagia Sophia as a museum. I said it publicly, in my statements, in my interviews.I reiterated my position to the President of UNESCO because Hagia Sophia is under the protection of the international organization. Hagia Sophia is now a museum open to all the visitors. And hundreds, if not thousands, visit it every day. And Turkey has a big income from the entrance fee.”