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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-11-23

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Holy Synod decries protests at Hagia Sophia

  • [01] Holy Synod decries protests at Hagia Sophia

    The Church of Greece's influential Holy Synod on Thursday expressed its "sincerest regrets" over an unprecedented incident a day earlier at the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul, after dozens of young ultra-nationalist men briefly occupied the site to protest Pope Benedict XVI's scheduled visit to the one-time seat of Byzantine Orthodoxy next week.

    "The Church of Greece restates its unreserved support for the institution and the struggles of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in defence of its vested interests -- as emanating from international treaties -- as well as for the right to religious freedom for Turkey's minorities..." the Church announcement read.

    Hagia Sophia, a contraction of the name "Church of the Holy Wisdom of God" in Greek, is identified in Turkey today as the Ayasofya Museum, having been converted from a mosque into a pre-eminent museum by the Turkish government in 1935. The current cathedral was erected in the 6th century A.D. during the reign of Justinian and forcibly turned into a mosque after the Ottoman sacking of Constantinople in May 1453.

    In the same announcement, the Holy Synod notes that Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos and all the Holy Synod bishops "pray for the safe travel and stay in Istanbul of the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and look forward to the successful and fruitful cooperation between the two religious leaders (i.e. the visiting Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos)".

    Conversely, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece's supreme body said it hopes that "the vast majority of the Muslims in the neighbouring country, which emphatically do not embrace or approve of violence," will help safeguard the Patriarch's and the Pope's historical efforts at inter-faith dialogue and world peace from "malevolent designs".

    Turkish police later arrested 39 demonstrators shouting anti-pontiff slogans.

    Caption: A file photo of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. ANA-MPA photo

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