SYDNEY – Archbishop Makarios of Australia expressed on the Greece’s state TV service ERT about his concern, anxiety and frustration about what is going on in Turkey regarding Aghia Sophia and the attempt by Turkey’s president to change its status from museum to a mosque.
Archbishop Makarios said that “I sympathize with all Greeks and with all Orthodox Christians,” and remind everyone that Aghia Sophia was built for a specific purpose … It was built to be the church of the Ecumenical Patriarch in a specific period and represents an institution, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is irrelevant that now we do not have the possibility to offer the Divine Liturgy in this monument. Whatever happens, we must not forget that this monument is a church of the Orthodox people.”
Archbishop Makarios, who defended the real role of the monument, also recalled its architectural uniqueness, peculiarity, since, as he emphatically stated, “no matter what, we must never forget that” one of the greatest domes built in human history “was the dome of Aghia Sophia.”
He also added that “the dome in the Vatican, the dome in the capitols in America and Europe, in the official buildings, in town halls, parliament buildings, are copies of this dome of ours and we should be very proud.”
In fact, he clarified that no matter what happens in the future, the historical reality does not change. “Even if they convert it into a mosque, even if they leave it as a museum, even if they turn it into a warehouse, or a gym or whatever, it’s still a timeless monument that shows who and what we are. Whatever intervention takes place in Aghia Sophia, the historical reality does not change.”
Asked about Patriarch Bartholomew’s statements on the issue, the Archbishop of Australia noted that “The Patriarch – as far as I know – said that such a change would disappoint the whole Christian world and that is a fact. I will be disappointed and you will be disappointed too, because if it becomes a mosque I will not be able to visit this monument which is a monument of my Nation. Therefore, the whole Christian world, of which more than 350 million are Orthodox Christians, not to include the Catholics and Protestants, who are all Christians, will be disappointed. This decision of the President of Turkey will definitely have a negative impact.”
Last week the supreme court of Turkey announced that the current Turkish head of State had the right to decide whether to change Kemal Ataturk’s 1934 decree on the status of Aghia Sophia as a museum or not. The Supreme Court ruled that it was a legitimate decision to protect the museum status of Aghia Sophia, but noted that a presidential decree will be sufficient to change it.
The Archbishop also referred to the situation prevailing in relation to the Coronavirus in Australia, talking about a second uncontrollable wave in Melbourne at a time when everyone thought that the spread had been stopped. “We were forced to close seven of our churches two days ago, trying on our own initiative to contribute to the effort made for public health,” he added.
He also referred to the frustration of the Greek-Australians who cannot travel Greece due to restrictions on travel by Australia.