Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Declares Day of Mourning for Hagia Sophia

The New York headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Photo credit: goarch.org

Churches under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will toll their bells mournfully following Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

The action was decided by the Archdiocese’s Holy Synod during a video conference call that was chaired by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros on Thursday, July 16.

Attendees agreed that a day of deceleration, of “mourning and intense grief,” was necessary to show the Church’s stance on the matter as well as its solidarity and  strength in the midst of the decision.

The solemn yet beautiful display of solidarity is scheduled to take place on Friday, July 24 – the same day when the first official Islamic prayer service is planned to be held at the iconic Christian monument in Istanbul. Church flags will also be lowered to half-mast.

In a previous announcement, the Holy Synod had called Erdogan’s decision the start of a “program of cultural and spiritual misappropriation and a violation of all models for harmonious coexistence and mutual respect,” stressing that they will never cease pursuing their righteous demands for Hagia Sophia.

The Archdiocese’s Holy Synod also called for Greek Orthodox churches to perform the same liturgy on July 24 as the one held during the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, the day when Christ’s crucifixion is recounted.

On top of receiving the support of many in the Greek-American community, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros took to Twitter to thank former US Vice President Joe Biden for expressing his support on the issue on Friday, July 17, writing that “I was grateful to receive a call from VP Joe Biden, expressing his support of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, and his solidarity with our cause to maintain the status quo for Hagia Sophia.”

Along with Greece, various political and world leaders have also spoken out against Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque, citing the historical and cultural significance of the site.