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Inicio arrow newsitems arrow CoE Ministers Committee Head calls to Save UNESCO World Heritage Sainte Sophie from change to Mosque

CoE Ministers Committee Head calls to Save UNESCO World Heritage Sainte Sophie from change to Mosque

Escrito por ACM
26.06.20

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*Strasbourg/Angelo Marcopolo/- PanEuropean, 47 Member States-strong (Russia included) CoE's President,  Alt. Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis, launched a vibrant Call to Save UNESCO World Heritage Monument, the Historic, Over-Millenary Church of Sainte Sophie (alias "Agia Sophia"), currently a very popular Museum, from Recent Threats by the Turkish Government, including President Erdogan,  to turn it into a Mosque...  

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He was Replying to various MEPs' Questions, (including one from Turkey, on "Freedom of Religion"), at the Standing Committee of CoE's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), where he has served for a Long Time as former MEP, and Recently Elected vice-President of its Biggest Political Group, that of ChristianDemocrats/EPP.

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- Currently, "there is a Great Concern for us, (Europe), and a Great Concern for the Global Community, ... about the Attempt to use Agia Sophia as a Mosque", he Denounced.

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- This goes, "particularly, within the framework of UNESCO", and includes a move "Not to Preserve its (Sainte Sophie's) Global Position as a World Heritage Monument", Varvitsiotis Warned.

 

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- However, currently, "that Symbolizes a Great Monument, Both for ...Christianity", (particularly "Orthodox", but Not Only: See Infra - During More than 1,5 Millenary, or about 1.700 Years, since the Initial Creation of that Church on 360, throughout the Christian-Greek Byzantine Empire's Civilisation), "and the Turkish Muslims, Since they started their Presence (sic !) in Istanbul/Constantinople", as he said, (i.e. During about 550 Years, Since the 1.453 Bloody Turkish Military Invasion and Occupation of Constantinople).

                                                                                     

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=> "So, it's very Important to SaveGuard such Monuments, and give them to the World Heritage", CoE's President-in-office Urged.
 

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- And this, Also, "as an humble Example of InterCultural coordination", he Modestly Added.


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In Fact, notoriously, Greek Byzantines Build that Monument with its Famous Huge Dome, Full of Light and Icons, (Near an Ancient Temple of Apollon), and Turks Surrounded it by some Minarets Outside, added a few Graves or Symbols of Conquest, and Systematicaly Erased or Covered up Icons.

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- Varvitsiotis, Earlier, had Warned that he would Not be Free to Answer MEPs' Questions "as a Foreign Minister of Greece", (that he was), since he had Now to "speak as a President of CoE's Committee of Ministers", according to its rules and procedures. (What he really did, Also, just Before the Religious Freedom Question, by Answering, with a very ..."Technical" and Neutral Language, anOther Question, Raised by the President of the EuroLeft Group of MEPs, Dutch Senator Tiny Cox, about 2 Dissident Politicians' Freedom of Expression Violations in Turkey, as found by ECHR, where they had been Prosecuted, Destituted, Condemned and Jailed, for some Simple Critical, but Peaceful Declarations)...

=> To the point that, PACE's New President, Liberal Belgian Senator, Rik Daems, smiling, then, Suggested that "CoE's Assembly should Vote for a New Additional Protocol to the ECHR, Protecting the Freedom of Expression of CoE's Committee of Ministers' President !"...

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+ Meanwhile, however, even USA's Ambassador at large for Religious Freedom, former Long-Time Senator Sam Brownback, (Appointed by US President Don Trump), Published at the Internet a Written Statement on "the Hagia Sophia", stressing that it "Holds Enormous Spiritual and Cultural Significance".

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>>> Therefore, "we (USA) Call on the Government of Turkey to Maintain it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and to Maintain the Accessibility to All, in its current Status as a Museum".

Sainte Sophie has been Officially Declared as a "Museum" Already Since 1934, (i.e. During almost 87 Years now).

It Attracts "almost 3,4 Millions of Visitors, Annually", (according to "Wikipedia").

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- And it affects "Billions of Believers, of Different Faiths, around the World", wrote Today USA's Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, (Comp. Supra).

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+ But, Meanwhile, a Russian MEP had formaly Raised a Question to Erdogan, at CoE's Assembly in Strasbourg, as early as since 2006, about whether the alleged Respect of Religious Freedom in Turkey would Allow for Christian People to become anew able to Celebrate the Divine Mass in Sainte Sophie Cathedral, as they used to do during Millenaries...

++ Already, the International Treaty of Sevres (1920), whose Centenary Anniversary is due to be Commemorated this August 2020, Drafted and Signed by the Winners of the 1st World War and Many Other Countries, had Explicitly Subordinated All "the Rights of the Turkish Government over Constantinople", to the "Faithfull Observation of the Provisions ... as regards the Protection of the Rights to Racial, Religious or Linguistic Minorities" :

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=> "In the event of Turkey Failing to" do so, "the Allied Powers expressely reserve(d) the right to Modify the ... provisions, and Turkey hereby agree(d) to accept Any Dispositions which May be Taken" (on Constantinople's fate) !

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- But, on the Contrary, inter alia, f.ex., when Christian Catholic Pope Benedict on 2005, Followed by German Chancellor Angie Merkel, Later-on, made Official Visits to Turkey, Visiting also Constantinople and Sainte Sophie, various Press Articles and Politicians' Statements had Created an UnForgetable Atmosphere of ...Terror, threatening with "Warnings" on "the Consequences" that Risked to have Any Move which Might be Interpreted as a ...Christian Religious "Prayer" inside Agia Sophia Cathedral...

=> Pope Benedict bypassed that with an open Gesture, which could be Interpreted as a Joint Prayer, inside the Neighbouring "Blue Mosque", while Chancellor Merkel Artfuly used a remarked Long and Deep Look Up towards the Sky, at Agia Sophia, while Crossing Hands, which might be Interpreted, by outward observers, in various ways...

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- However, "in 2015, in Retaliation for the Acknowledgment, by (Christian Catholic) Pope Francis, of the Armenian Genocide, the Mufti of Ankara, Mefail Hızlı, (reportedly) stated that ...the Conversion of Hagia Sophia into a Mosque will be Accelerated".     

=> In Consequence, "On 1 July 2016, Muslim Prayers were (Openly) held again in the Hagia Sophia for the First time in 85 Years", according to "Wikipedia". "On November" 2016, a "Turkish NGO ... filed a Lawsuit for Converting the Museum into a Mosque", (which was Stoped at a Court). "On 13 May 2017, a Large Group o People, ... in front of Hagia Sophia ...Prayed ...with a Call for the Reconversion ...into a Mosque". "On 21 June 2017, the (State-Controlled) Direction of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) organized ...the Recitation of the Quran and Prayers in Hagia Sofia", "Broadcast live by State-run Television TRT". "On 31 March 2018 Turkish president ...Erdoğan recited the 1st Verse of the Quran in the Hagia Sophia, dedicating the Prayer ...Especially (to) Istanbul's Conqueror" (sic !). "In March 2019 Erdoğan said that he will Change the status of Hagia Sophia, from a Museum to a Mosque,[69] adding that it was a "very big Mistake" to turn it into a Museum".    He says that it's "a Demand of the Turkish People", and that he'd "Wait until the (Local) Elections' End". In 2020, Turkey's Government is set to celebrate the 567th Anniversary of the Ottoman Conquest of Istanbul, with an Islamic Prayer in Hagia Sophia"  ...as part of conquest festival," Turkish president ...Erdoğan said. In May 2020, during the Anniversary events, passages from the Quran was read in the Hagia Sophia. In June, 2020 the head of the Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) said that "we would be very happy to Open Hagia Sophia for Worship", and ..."we will provide our Religious Services, as we do in all our Mosques”.

But, meanwhile, the Opposition Party CHP, which Won the Latest Elections at Istanbul/Constantinople is, reportedly, Against that, and its MPs Prefer for Agia Sophia to Remain a Museum...

So that, (withOut Illusions), the New Mayor of Istanbul/Constantinople, Imamoglou, had, apparently, made a quite Better Impression, Recently in Strasbourg, when he had been Heard by CoE's CLRAE.

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It's true that Both Istanbul/Constantinople and Smyrne/Izmir Regions, are very Often Opposed, Socio-Politically, to the Rest of Turkey, in Most Elections, during Many Years, to the point that they have routinely Become Familiar, Distinct Opposition "Hotspots" in the Political MAPs formed After National or Regional/Local Elections...

It's Always them, at the West, and the Kurdish Regions, at the East, which are Distinguished from the Rest.

GeoPolitically, mutatis-mutandis, it really looks almost Like the International Sevres' Treaty MAP, (which had Notoriously preserved "Special" Status for Both these Regions) !

Naturally, this does Not Necessarily Mean that Imamoglou, and/or Someone Else around Istanbul/Constantinople, might have Already Become somewhat Similar to the Spanish "Autonomist" MEP Puigdemon, from Catalonia's Barcelona...

-  However, it's also true that, in Paris, still exists, (Between Elysee Palace and Saint Lazare Railway Station), a landmark, Historic "Europe Square",  surrounded by many Streets with the Names of all European Capital Cities, including Moscow and even Constantinople.

Not Ankara : Obviously, Because it's Not Located inside Europe, But in Asia !

 

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Benedict's "Source" to revitalize Europe : - "The World needs Hope", Pope says, calling to relaunch E.U. via Human Rights !

Paris - Lourdes - Strasbourg : 12 - 17 September 2008.

The vital need to re-launch Europe can be succesfully met by defending fundamental Human Rights of the People, said Pope Benedict XVI in his 1st speech in France, at his meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently chairs the EU.

Sarkozy replied by welcoming Christian and other religions' contribution to indispensable Public Debates on crucial issues which affect Human Dignity, Europe, even Humankind, as BioGenetics.

- "When Europeans will see and personally experience that the inalienable Rights of the Human Person .., those of their free Education, their Family life, their Work, ..their Religious Rights, ..are respected and promoted, then, these Europeans will fully understand the greatness of the European construction and will be actively involved in it", Benedict XVI stressed.

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- "It's important that during France's EU Presidency, there is, indeed, a desire for the Church to contribute to protect Human Person's integrity, and I think that there is also a growing Conscience, beyond any polemics, to defend Human Rights, and, thus, contribute to ensure respect for Human Dignity", added to "EuroFora" the Pope's Spokesman, Vatican's Press Director Federico Lombardi.

- "Nobody really told us here that Lisbon Treaty was good for this or that reason to the People. They only told us that we "had" to ratify it, and tried to scare us, but failed", said 2 Irish pilgrims to "EuroFora", after 2 Majority Abstentions in 1999 and 2004 EU Elections and 3 "NO" to Referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005, followed by the Irish "No" in 2008, during a Decade of EU Crisis since the controversial Turkey EU- bid (1999-2008).

More than .."224 cases of Murders, Torture, "Disappearancies" or Destructions" by "agents of Turkish Security forces", where all those responsible for so heavy Crimes still remain scandalously unpunished, despite regular condemnations of Ankara by Strasbourg''s European Court of Human Rights from 1996 to 2008, were examined the same week by CoE's Ministers, who decided to launch a fresh call "urging" the Turkish Authorities to end this dangerous "virtual Impunity" of criminals, without comparison to European countries.

- "Why not Ukraine, instead of Turkey ?", asked EuroFora a Journalist from "Kiev : the city where it's enough to cross the streets in order to realize that it's a European town", as Sarkozy recently said, before solemnly declaring this week, together with Ukranian President Jushenko and EU Commission's chair Baroso, EU's "recognition that Ukraine is a fully European Country, linked to Europe by culture and History".

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Europe's "Christian roots" and Values, with "openess and mutual respect" to other cultures and beliefs, were highlighted by Sarkozy in harmony with Benedict XVI.

The Human person should be protected "from his inception until his natural death", added the Pope, faithful to BioEthic principles defended by his predecessor and collaborator, John Paul II, of topical importance in France, Europe and the World today, as Sarkozy announced :

- "Fast and important progres in Genetic Science and procreation raise delicate BioEthical Questions to our Democracies", which "involve our view of Humans and Life, and can lead to Social Mutations. That's why they cannot remain only a business of experts", hestressed.

- "It's Politician's responsibility to set a proper framework for such Public Debates", as "France will do on BioEthics in 2009". "Religious and Philosophic traditions must take part, with their ideas and centuries' long experience : A positive Laicity is an open invitation to Dialogue", he said.

- "France engaged in Europe at another Debate on how to make Financial Capitalism more moral", and the "Social doctrine of the Church fits well what is at stake in modern Globalized Economy"

- "But, a "Real Dialogue is not for an elite of a Globalized world : It penetrates deep into the People : That's why Churches should actively participate : .. It's bringing New Oxygen to Public Debates", stressed Sarkozy.

- "Democracy must not be cut off Reason", which is "compatible with Faith", thanks to "the meeting between Christianism and Greek philosophy ", he added, referring to Pope's views. "It means to advance with logic arguments, search what's best and respect common principles of thinking :... It's an everyday need for Public Administration and the Political Debate", he added.
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Pope Benedict's 1st visit to France looked like the start of a brillant, manifold demonstration that this was well-founded and could become true in the lives of the People : After its Theoretical foundations unfolded at a "speech to the world of Culture", inaugurating Bernadins' cultural centre, and its dogmatic instrument shaped at an address to the Clergy in the Historic Notre Dame' Cathedral, he started to resolutely reach out to the People :

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The move went upwards like Bach's music : Begining with a call to more than fifteen thousand enthousiastic Youngsters gathered at Notre Dame's parvis with overnight celebrations, it gained strength in an impressive open-air Mass at Paris'central Invalides'area facing Alexander III's bridge, attended by more than 150.000 people, French Prime Minister Fillon, many Ministers, Foreign Ambassadors, etc, and culminated in a series of pan-European Mega-meetings at Lourdes 150th anniversary, together with all French Bishops, EU Commission's vice-Chairman Barrot, and some 200.000 enthousiastic People from all over Europe and beyond : After a Sea of Lights astonishingly braved Saturday Night's rain, an open-air mass at riverside fields among Pyrenees' Mountains Sunday Morning, was followed on Monday by a Sea of "Compassion" to those facing Health or Life threats, surrounded by an endless gathering of People, whose gigantic dimensions obviously surprised the organisers..

Meanwhile, Benedict had the occasion to speak to the French Priests at Notre Dame of Paris, and with the Bishops at Lourdes, where they prepare a crucial November plenary meeting, due to take important decisions on imminent EU debates and choices about Europe's identity, BioEthics, etc.
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- "A new way of thinking about Laicity has become necessary", agreed the Pope with President Sarkozy at Elysee. While keeping the "distinction between Politics and Religion, to guarantee Citizens' Liberty", "religion is important for shaping Consciousness and contributing, together with others, to create a basic Ethical Consensus in society".

- "Searching Essential realities", (as "God" for christians), needs "Speech : "Logos" in greek, i.e. Reason", "able to shape a Community","with creative work transforming Human History". But "Dialogue" is instrumental for "Reason", because it's the way to "search" for Truth", in "Liberty", according to Greek Platonic Philosophy, with Socrates' dialectics. "Reason" implies "Spirit and Liberty", hence the polyphonic "Music" of "Dialogue", in a responsible, "well balanced" way, to avoid "destruction".

Starting with a "Dialogue between christians and intellectual or artistic movements" highlighted at Bernardins' Cultural Center. with former Presidents Chirac and Giscard d'Estain, UNESCO's chair Anastassopoulos, etc., as well as representatives of Muslim Communities, (including a separate Turkish), after contacts with Jews at Vatican's Embassy, the Pope turned towards the People :

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To French Priests : "Church built on the rock" !
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- Speaking to thousands of French Priests at Notre Dame's Cathedral, Benedict highlighted a solid "Church built on the Rock" of conscious and active persons, transmitting "a lively, energetic and sharp" "God's Speech, actively working on Human History".

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"Praying together" with "representatives of Christian Churches and ecclesiastic communities", (as Orthodoxes, Armenians, Protestants, etc), he called "to reinforce the Unity of the church", against "any form of Division", around Holy Spirit', "the Word","Christ's Justice", and "Love" to fellow- humans : Essentials which "resume all holy scripts", as he said.

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To Young People : "New Horizons"
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To some 15.000 enthousiastic Young People at Notre Dame's parvis, along Seine's river, Benedict spoke about "the Energy of the Holy Spirit" and "the Mystery of the Cross" : - "The Holy Spirit opens New Horizons to Human Intelligence .. and makes it conscious of the real greatness of Christ's sacrifice, dying and resurecting for World's life".

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Some "may slander you as crazy, laugh at you, or even persecute you. But, "the Holy Cross is a symbol of God's love", and "givesmoral strength" : "Witness of People's pains, it's at the same time, a precious, unique expression of their Hopes", he told them at Paris' dawn.

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Invalides' plateau : "People chosen to become God's friends"
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At the 1st open-air Mass in Paris' center area of Invalides, facing the Grand Palais, along the river Seine, during an impressive gathering of more than 150.000, French Prime Minister Fillon, Ministers Alliot-Marie, Bachelot, Dati, Jouyet, Assembly's President Accoyer, Senate's Chair Poncelet, former 1st Lady Bernadette Chirac, former Prime Minister Raffarin, many foreign Ambassadors, and other political personalities were present. (While earlier, from the Socialist opposition, Paris' Mayor Delanoye, artist Robert Hussein a.o. assisted at the Elysee meeting).

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But the "Entry Song" focused on the "People chosen to become God's Friends". The September 11 mass was Dedicated to "Saint Chrysostomus, that great priest of Constantinople", with his "wonderful eloquence and great courage to face challenges", who "made out of despaired and godless people, a people of brothers", opening a possibility to "become all one complete entity", as Pope Benedict reminded.

- "Reason never enters in real contradiction with Faith", stressed Pope Benedict, who prepared his speeches for France during a short Summer rest at Brixen/Bressanone's Seminar, whose Library honors both "Faith and Science".. - "We must use not only our Reason, but also our Faith" : "Get away from Idolatry", "cupidity", "avidity for money, power or even knowledge deviating from essential aims", and other "falses appearances". and "build your Home on the Rock", "with the force that Holy Spirit gives to those who let it act in them", he said to the People of Paris.

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Benedict at Lourdes : - "Become Light (even) in the Dark !"
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- "Our World needs Hope", stressed Pope Benedict, addressing an impressive TorchLight procession at Lourdes' sanctuaries, where a Sea of Lights held by Hundreds of Thousands of People gathered at Pyrenee's Mountains from all over Europe astonishingly kept their flames despite a heavy Rain at a windy Dark Night...

- "150 years earlier (1858 - 2008), ..here, in the cave, ... a simple young girl, Bernadette .. saw a Light". "The everyday life of her Family was, however, made of Misery, Sadness, Sickness, Misunderstandings, Rejection and Poverty... It was hard to live in Jail". Today, "we think to all Human Beings who suffer : The innocent Victims who face Violence, War, Terrorism, Hunger, Injustices, Catastrophes, Hate and Oppression, Violations of Human Dignity and of their fundamental Rights, of their Liberty to act and think. We also think to those who face Familial problems, sufferings from Unemployment, Sickness, Infirmity, Isolation, or their situation as Immigrants, without forgetting those who suffer and die for the name of Christ", he said.

- "But the Shadows of the Earth, did not hinder Sky's Light to shine : <<The Light shines in the Dark>>" ..."A Way full of Light opens in Human History even in its Darkest moments" : ..."As Night falls, Christ tels us : <<- Keep your Lamps alight !>>."Hold a Light while walking in the Night .. sums up our condition as Christians on their way : "We need light, and we are called to become Light !", Benedict stressed to People setting in motion Lights, Flags and Songs with enthousiasm.

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"<<- She looked at me as a Person, who speaks to another Person>>, the poor girl had noted."Light emerges from such a Dialogue", stressed the Pope : "A small Flame called Hope, Compassion and Tenderness dwells inside those who return after being moved by Lourdes' experience". "Christ .. entrusts us with the Mission to let the Light of Charity shine : To make of our Prayers an Act of Love to our brothers and to Fraternal Charity", he concluded.

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