Greek President, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and other leaders condemn Turkey’s decision to convert historic Chora church into mosque

President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni and other leaders condemned the decision by Turkish authorities to convert the ancient Church of Chora (“Church of the Holy Savior in Chora”) in Constantinople (Turkish: İstanbul), into a mosque.

The Church of Chora was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans, and was turned into a museum in 1958, but last year the Turkish Supreme Court ruled that it should be converted into a mosque, which had not been implemented until today.

In a tweet on the decision Sakellaropoulou noted: “After Hagia Sophia, the Turkish leadership moves onto another provocative act. It turns the Chora Monastery into a mosque, thereby distorting the character of another world heritage site while undermining interfaith and intercultural dialogue.”

After the tragic transgression with #HagiaSophia, now the Monastery of Chora, this exquisite offering of Byzantine culture to the world! The Turkish people do not deserve such a narrow-minded policy. The pleas and exhortations of the international community are ignored. How long?” Archbishop Elpidophoros of America wrote on his Twitter account.

The move was condemned earlier in the day by the Greek Foreign Ministry as “completely reprehensible.” The ministry said the decision is yet another “provocation for religious people everywhere and for the international community that respects the monuments of human civilization.”

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni also described the move as “an insult to global cultural heritage.” The decision to change the museum’s status “is a second provocative act by the Turkish president that has been condemned by the Greek government through the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the European Commission,” the Culture minister said. “It’s sad to see, in the 21st century, a regression to the past instead of having religious tolerance and multiculturalism dominate. We all talk about dialog among cultures, about consensus, tolerance and broadmindedness. Such acts return us to the past,” she added.

The Church of Chora is covered with some of the finest Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.

The spokesperson for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy of the EU also commented on the decision. “We are recording the decision to convert the Chora Church, which functioned as a museum since 1945, into a mosque and to open it for worship,” Nabila Massrali said.

“Like Hagia Sophia, Chora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a member of the Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity, Turkey is committed to interfaith and intercultural dialogue and the promotion of tolerance and coexistence.”

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