UOC hierarch: Hagia Sophia’s status can be changed only toward Eucharist

Archbishop Alexy of Voznesensk and Pervomaisk. Photo: Voznesensk Eparchy website

Archbishop Alexy believes that the Temple of the Wisdom of God in Istanbul does not belong to Phanar, Turkey, UNESCO or to anyone or anything else – it belongs to God.

Archbishop Alexy of Voznesensk and Pevomaisk believes that Hagia Sophia is not only the property of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but our common shrine and universal value that belongs to God. His Eminence spoke about this on July 9, 2020 to the UOJ correspondent.

According to him, at the moment, "the whole Christian world is watching with tension the developments around a possible change in the status of Hagia Sophia Cathedral."

The Archbishop recalled that “the Primates of several Churches, many bishops and politicians have already voiced their standpoint on this issue. Almost all of them talk about the inadmissibility of converting one of the most significant Christian shrines, currently in the status of a museum, into an operating mosque.”

“Indeed, the Cathedral, which is a symbol of the great Christian power, and most importantly, a symbol of serving God, a way of love for Him, should not again become a mosque,” the hierarch emphasized.

In addition, he says, “It is painful to see how some Orthodox Christians demonstrate feelings similar to gloating in this regard. In their opinion, the situation around Hagia Sophia is a certain punishment for the recognition of the OCU by Phanar.”

The Archbishop does not consider this position correct and, moreover, Christian.

“The fact is that Hagia Sophia is neither the property of Phanar nor the property of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This is our common shrine and universal value. But, most importantly, the Temple of the Wisdom of God belongs to neither Phanar, Turkey, UNESCO nor to anyone or anything else – it belongs to God. In this sense, if one changes its status, then only in favor of the Eucharist renewal, not namaz,” the hierarch noted.

He is convinced that "by defending Hagia Sophia we do not defend the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but the temple, which became the place where our ancestors felt like in Heaven and believed in Christ."

In addition, Vladyka reminded that “it does not befit a Christian to feel gloating delight when someone is ill. Even if some person betrayed us, even if they consider us their enemies and wish us harm, we cannot and should not retaliate.”

As an example of the right attitude to the problems of others, the hierarch of the UOC cited the words from the Old Testament: “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it” (Exodus 23:5).

“And if the Lord in the Old Testament calls on a person to be magnanimous, rather than wicked and envious, how much more often does He call for the same in the New Testament! Remember the words of the Savior: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:44-46). Here is a true Christian position. And we simply don’t have another choice,” said Archbishop Alexy.

Vladyka is convinced that “in terms of Hagia Sophia we must be guided by namely these principles – to defend the shrine common for all Christians and to be generous in relation to those who offended us.”

“Perhaps, it is thanks to our generosity that they will be able to realize their fall and repair the mistake they committed through repenting,” the hierarch concluded.

Earlier, the UOJ wrote that according to Patriarch Kirill, Hagia Sophia is a great Christian shrine, and a threat to it is a threat to the whole of Christian civilization and therefore, to our spirituality and history.

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