Archbishop Elpidophoros Meets with President Trump on Hagia Sophia
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America met with President Trump and Vice President Pence late on Thursday to discuss Turkey’s recent decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
The previously-unannounced meeting with the President and Vice President at the White House was an opportunity for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to air their deep concerns over the seizure of the Byzantine-era building.
Following the meeting with the President and Vice President, the Archbishop stated “I am grateful to have met with President Trump and Vice President Pence in the White House and communicated our grave dismay at the re-conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, as well as ongoing security concerns for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and issues of religious liberty.
“In view of tomorrow’s day of mourning, we persevere in prayer but also bring our struggle to the highest levels of authority.”
After the meeting Pence said that “America will stand firm with the Greek Orthodox Church in the call for Hagia Sophia to remain accessible as a source of inspiration and reflection for every person of every faith.”
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has already declared Friday as a day of mourning over the reconversion of the hallowed building, which served for almost a thousand years as the seat of all Eastern Christianity.
The cathedral of Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the 1453 fall of the city of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. It was made into a secular museum in 1935 and is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Friday, July 24 marks the first day that a Muslim prayer service has been scheduled to take place in Hagia Sophia in many years.