Catholic bishops join Orthodox in ‘Day of Mourning’ for Hagia Sophia
July 24, was declared a “Day of Mourning” as the former Byzantine cathedral opened for formal Islamic Friday prayers for the first time in more than 80 years this very day. Catholic bishops across the United States have issued joint statements with their Greek Orthodox counterparts expressing sorrow at the reopening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque on Friday.
Hagia Sophia had been a museum since Turkey’s establishment as a secular state. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a decree July 10 converting it into a mosque following a ruling by the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, earlier that day which declared unlawful an 80-year old government decree converting the building from a mosque into a museum.
Religious leaders around the world, including Pope Francis, decried the move, with the pope saying it caused him “great sadness.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that Friday would be observed as a “Day of Mourning” and that Catholics would join the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America “in offering our prayers for the restoration of Hagia Sophia as a place of prayer and reflection for all peoples.”
On Friday, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Nathanel of Chicago released a joint statement saying they were “troubled by the government’s disregard for religious pluralism in Turkey.”
“We are particularly concerned because this action represents a visible marginalization and continued attack on the religious freedom of Turkey’s Christian communities and other religious minorities,” the cardinal and metropolitan said.
In Boston, Metropolitan Methodios and Cardinal Seán O’Malley issued similarly critical of the change.
The conversion of the building into a mosque “alters the status quo that has existed for the last 85 years and causes great pain to many throughout the world,” said O’Malley and Metropolitan Methodios.
The two pointed out that the Hagia Sophia, which was completed in the year 537 before its forced conversion into a mosque, following the capture of Constantinople in 1453, had “served as a preeminent place of Christian worship for almost twice as long as it did a mosque.”
Hartmayer and Metropolitan Alexios requested that Christians throughout the country “not only pray for, but speak up for Hagia Sophia.”
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