Armenian Patriarch backs opening Hagia Sophia to worship
Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Sahak Mashalian has endorsed the idea of restoring Hagia Sophia’s status as a place of worship, a controversial debate in Turkey brought to the country’s agenda after the ruling party voiced will to turn the museum into a mosque.
“Hagia Sophia was built with the labor of 10,000 workers. It has gone through numerous renovations and all those efforts were meant to keep it as a worship place but not to serve as a museum,” Mashalian, the 85th Patriarch of Turkey’s Armenians, wrote on Twitter.
“I believe that believers’ praying suits better the spirit of the temple instead of curious tourists running around to take pictures,” he said, calling for the opening of Hagia Sophia to prayer.
“Hagia Sophia is large enough to allocate a space for Christians. Let it become the peace symbol of this era and humanity,” the patriarch wrote.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stressed that his government will take necessary action concerning the opening of the Hagia Sophia to worship in line with a court ruling. The former Greek Orthodox cathedral was turned into a museum in 1934, after the founding of the secular Turkish republic.
The matter of Hagia Sophia’s status came up when Turkey marked the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of the former Byzantine capital by reading passages from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in the Hagia Sophia.
The Council of State examines the request for annulment of a cabinet decree of 1934 that turned the Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum. The court will make its ruling on the Hagia Sophia’s status on July 2 on whether the site can be converted into a mosque.