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UNESCO Special Advisor on Aghia Sophia Visits Archdiocese

NEW YORK – On October 18, Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki, Special Advisor to UNESCO on the matter of Turkey’s unilateral reconversion of the Aghia Sophia UNESCO World Heritage Site into a mosque, was received by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, together with Presbyter Dr. Nicholas Kazarian, Professor Elizabeth Prodromou of Tufts University, and public international law attorney Christina Hioureas, Partner and Chair of the United Nations Practice Group at Foley Hoag.

During this meeting, Dr. Bouchenaki provided the Archdiocese with an update on the latest developments with respect to Turkey’s unilateral reconversion of the Aghia Sophia and Chora Monastery UNESCO sites into mosques, including a summary of his findings during his visit. Archbishop Elpidophoros and his advisors provided their insights both as to the structural damage to the site that has since resulted, as well as the religious and symbolic harm to Orthodox Christians resulting from Turkey’s unlawful conduct. Finally, the representatives offered to provide supplemental information in the form of photographic and other evidence regarding Turkey’s destruction and degradation of cultural property.

The meeting included a discussion of how Turkey’s conduct is in breach of international law.

Additionally, the Archbishop presented Dr. Bouchenaki with a copy of the recently published children’s book, The Great Secret, which aims to teach children about the importance of Aghia Sophia to the Orthodox Christian faith and to humanity, more generally, as forming the common heritage of humankind.

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