Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sofia, Istanbul after 557 years..will Turkey allow it?

Article published on Sept. 15, 2010
community published
Article published on Sept. 15, 2010
A few days after the historic referendum on Turkey, which laid the foundations for a modern and effective constitution, an event to be held on Friday, September 17 in Istanbul's most historic building, Hagia Sophia puts back into question the maturity of Turkish democracy. 250 Greeks from the U.S.
will be traveling to Istanbul  and together will try to make a Divine Liturgy -the first after 557 years - within the most important church of Christianity which shortly after the founding of the Turkish state was transformed to a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Protected by the UNESCO as  World Heritage site will operate for a few minutes to its original status, that of a Christian Church. Anyway, helper in this endeavor would not be His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Barthelomew and that's because the Patriarchate does not want to regenerate a climate of tension with the Turkish government, especially after the recent positive developments around the issue of the reopening of the Halki Theological School.

The interior of Hagia Sophia with the recently revealed Cherubims

    However, the importance of this issue lies not only in whether Psalms and Hymns will be heared again within the magnificent church or not. It lies on how the Turkish government will handlse the issue, which is not yet clear. So far no positive or negative response has been given by Turkish authorities  telling if they allow or prohibit the specific performance of a religious event into an Islamic museum (rightly or wrongly that is the current status of Hagia Sofia). Undoubtedly, Prime Minister Erdogan finds himself at the peak of his political career, stronger than ever before, without excuses of the past that prevented the adoption of liberal decisions in the guise of irritation of the secular establishment.

In my opinion, to authorize the celebration of Holy Mass in a place which is sacred to Christians all over the world, would be a great opportunity for Mr. Erdogan to capitalize on the recent electoral success. Also he will be able to demonstrate tangible results in the international community, showing that Turkish Government has ceased to be a puppet of the military; on the contrary the country moves forward on the path of democracy, development and protection of human rights -among them is also the freedom of religious expression. Let us only hope that there will be a non-violent and without excesses event ..Omiros Tsapalos