We, the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, protest the decision of the civil courts in Turkey, as well as the clear direction of their government, to re-convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. As citizens of the United States of America, we implore our government to intervene for the reversal of this decision. Furthermore, we urge the Turkish government to return to the status quo whereby Hagia Sophia remains a museum, respecting both its origins and history.
By contrast, this unilateral action denies the universal vocation of this holy and sacred place. Hagia Sophia belongs to the whole of humanity as a World Heritage Site. Built in 537 AD during the reign of Emperor Justinian, it has been, for more than a millennium, a place of rich cultural and spiritual inspiration for all.
We are particularly concerned about the negative effects such a change will have on religious pluralism in Turkey, as well as on the relations among nations and between faith-based organizations. We call on the international community to invite the Turkish authorities to revise their decision, affording all people the opportunity to continue enjoying the full and rich history and beauty of this outstanding landmark. This unique Christian monument should remain open to all as a sign of co-existence and peace among all peoples of good will.
Originally published on the website of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA. Also available on the website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central & South America.