Bartholomew I: Do not transform
Hagia Sophia in Trabzon into a Mosque
by NAT da Polis
Ecumenical Patriarch is opposed to the proposal of the
Vice-President Bulent Arinc because there is "no need" for worship.
Bartholomew is also supported by the head of the Muslim community,
who points out the many mosques, which remain largely empty.
Regarding minorities, the government is Turkish makes "one step
forward, one step back." Anti-conformist sentiments on the up.
Trabzon (AsiaNews): There is "no need" to
transform the ancient church of Aghia Sophia in Trabzon into a
mosque, it is better that it remains a museum open to all
religions: Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of
Constantinople, expressed with clarity his opposition to the
idea supported by the Deputy Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent
Arinc who would like to turn this monument of Christianity in an
exclusive place of worship for Muslims.
The church of Aghia Sofia (Saint Sofia) is a gem of ancient
architecture and dates back to the era of the Comnenus Emperors
(1204-1461). It testifies to the ancient presence of Christians
of Pontus on the Black Sea, wiped out as a result of various
genocides and purges first by the Ottomans, then by the
Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarch visited the church and met
with the mayor of the city, Genc. In front of reporters,
Bartholomew said: "We respect all mosques and all places of
worship, but in this case - turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque -
I see no need for worship."
He added. "We are in favor of maintaining the church of Hagia
Sophia as a museum. Moreover, as stated by the head of the local
[Islamic] community [here] there are already many mosques to
meet the needs for worship of the faithful, and they remain
largely partially empty. "
The Patriarch recalled the recent statements by the President of
the Muslim community of the place, Zeki Baytar who reacted
strongly to the Arinc proposal, even threatening a revolt, and
said: "First we must fill the mosques, then, if necessary,
transform Saint Sophia into a mosque."
"If Hagia Sophia in Trabzon is converted into a mosque -
continues Bartholomew I - it will be made available only to our
Muslim brothers. Conversely, if it remains as a museum, it can
offer its services to the entire international community, with
sizeable profits for its inhabitants."
Among the journalists present, many remember the words of the
same Bulent Arinc during his visit to the Phanar - the seat of
the patriarchate - in January 2011: "As a government we have a
duty to meet the needs of these citizens who have a centuries
old presence in these lands."
Therefore, the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch is hardly
surprising. What is of wonder however, is the Turkish government
policy towards minorities of "one step forward, one step back",
depending on the circumstances and political conjunctures.
Precisely for this reason anti-conformist courageous groups
voicing anti-conformist sentiments are on the increase in
Trabzon, in the far north-east of Turkey, is inhabited by a
population of almost 300 thousand inhabitants. Of these few are
Christians. On 5 February 2006, Italian priest Andrea Santoro
was murdered by a young nationalist Islamic.