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The Archbishop of Canterbury: Hagia Sophia Should Not Become A Mosque by Nikolaos Manginas

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Grace the Most Revd and Rt Honorable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury met at the Phanar, Istanbul from 13th-14th January, 2014, for their first meeting since the Most Revd Justin Welby was enthroned as the Archbishop of Canterbury about one year ago. (Photo by N. Manginas)

The official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of His Grace Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the worldwide Anglican Church, occurred from January 13-14, 2014. During the visit the Archbishop expressed his opposition to the possibility that the Church of Hagia Sophia of Constantinople be transformed into a mosque.

In response to our question concerning the idea in certain circles to use Hagia Sophia again as a mosque, His Grace said clearly: “It should not become a mosque.” Upon completing a visit to Hagia Sophia, the symbol of Christianity for centuries, on the 14th of January, he added: “That would be another loss, in which a great symbol of civilization throughout the world was transformed into a particular symbol of exclusivism.”

Inquiring about his impressions of Hagia Sophia after his visit, the Archbishop responded: “My main impression is of the extraordinary history of the place, a sense of sadness that it is such an example of loss — of a great building that feels in need of more love and affection. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the building and the importance that it is kept available for everyone and not becomes the property of one particular group. Its beauty is overwhelming. It is a place that needs explanation so that it is understood when people come in, of what it stood for and stands for.”

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