Church bells across Greece tolled in mourning on Friday as neighboring Turkey held its first Islamic prayer marking the conversion of Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque, Greek newspapers reported. Hagia Sophia, the first cathedral of the Eastern Roman Empire, is particularly sacred to Christian Orthodox believers, represented largely by the Greek Church. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led Muslims into prayer at the sixth century cathedral amid the chants of Allahu Akbar, the Islamic cry of jihad and conquest. “A group of men waved Turkish flags and chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’,” BBC reported. “Mosaics and frescoes of Jesus and Mary were draped with curtains.” The status of the historic Christian site was changed by a Turkish presidential decree. 

Head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, declared July 24 a ‘day of mourning’ to mark the loss of the holy site.

Erdogan’s regime is carrying out an “unholy act of sacrilege” against a “holy spiritual center for our Orthodox faith, of Christianity in general, and of a symbol of our faith,” the Archbishop said

The patriarch also slammed world leaders for their cowardice in the face of the Islamic usurpation of one of Christianity’s holiest places, saying: “I am deeply grieved that the powerful of this world, at least the majority of them, are hiding behind their finger, or rather behind their own geopolitical and geostrategic designs.”

The Athens-based daily Kathimerini reported Greek response: 

The official conversion on Friday of the historic former Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque was greeted with disdain and indignation by Greece’s political leadership, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying it was not a demonstration of Turkey’s power but “evidence of weakness.” (…)

“Especially for us Greek Orthodox Christians, Hagia Sophia is more a part of our souls today than ever. It is where our hearts beat, turning sorrow into strength, composure and unity,” Mitostakis said.

In a statement, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the conversion cast a dark shadow over Turkey’s reputation.

The leader of main opposition SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras said that the conversion, which also coincided with the anniversary of the the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, “marks another step away by Turkey from the universal values that are the basis for peace and mutual respect in our region.”

“It essentially undermines interfaith dialogue… no conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, however, can falsify or erase its history and its universal symbolism,” Tsipras said.

“As a Greek I feel bitter and angry,” said European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.

Church bells tolled mournfully around Greece to the sound of Byzantine hymns while at Hagia Sophia clerics sang from the Koran, with mosaics and frescoes of Jesus and Mary draped with curtains. The ceremony in Istanbul began with the recitation of verses from the Koran by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself.

Consecrated by Byzantine emperor Justinian in the year 537, the cathedral fell into Muslim hands when Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) was sacked by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Turks used it to a mosque, adding four minarets to its central dome. Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum in 1934 when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, abolished the Istanbul-based global Islamic caliphate in order to modernize the country.

Demonstrators in Greek capital Athens and other cities marched against Turkey’s growing Islamist imperial ambitions, denouncing “the second capture of Constantinople by the Turks,” France-based boadcaster EuroNews reported.

Turkey’s Erdogan responded to growing criticism from Europe and the West by playing the Islamophobia card. He slammed Western countries for “not take a step against Islamophobia.”

To add insult to injury, Turkey’s top imam took to the pulpit carrying a sword, a symbol of Islamic conquest over non-Muslims. Iman with his “his hands clasped on the hilt of the sword of conquest, gave his sermon,” The New York Times reported

‘Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis hits out at Hagia Sophia becoming a mosque’

(Cover image via YouTube)


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