The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, said he opposes Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc’s idea to turn the Christian Church of St. Sofia in Trapezounta into a Muslim mosque.
The Ecumenical Patriarch visited the church on August 16th and met with the mayor of the city. In front of Turkish reporters, Bartholomew said: “We respect all mosques and all places of worship, but in this case – turning St. Sophia into a mosque – I see no need for worship. We are in favor of maintaining the church of St. Sophia as a museum. Moreover, as stated by the head of the local (Islamic) community, there are already many mosques to meet the needs for worship of the faithful, and they remain largely partially empty. ”
The church of Agia Sofia (Saint Sofia) is a monument of Christianity, a gem of ancient architecture and dates back to the era of the Comnenus Emperors (1204-1461.) The Patriarch recalled recent statements by the President of the local Muslim community, Zeki Baytar, who reacted strongly to the Arinc proposal, threatening a revolt. He said: “First we must fill the mosques, then, if necessary, transform Saint Sophia into a mosque.”
The Patriarch added, “If St. Sophia in Trapezounta (Trabzon in Turkish) is converted into a mosque, it will be made available only to our Muslim brothers. Conversely, if it remains as a museum, it can offer its services to the entire international community, with sizeable profits for its inhabitants.”