German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is reported to be furious over the statements of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the prospects of turning the former Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia, located in Istanbul, Turkey, into a mosque.
According to reports by the Greek edition of Deutsche Welle, Merkel is said to have condemned the Turkish intentions during her meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is currently in Germany paying a 10-day official visit marking the 50th anniversary since the establishment of the Holy Metropolis of Germany.
During his meeting with the German Chancellor, the Ecumenical Patriarch thanked Merkel for her support in the Holy Metropolis of Germany, as well as for her two visits to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which were “highly supportive of the Patriarchate and its ecumenical mission.”
Meanwhile, deputy spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry Sawsan Chebli, replying to questions mentioned that the current status of Hagia Sophia — which operates as a museum — should satisfy all sides and that any change in the monument’s status would sadden everyone who believes that Hagia Sophia is an important Greek Orthodox building.
“However, the decision falls solely on Turkey. Since assuming office, the current Turkish government has been open to certain wishes of the Greek Orthodox minorities residing in Turkey. We therefore have faith in the appropriate sensitivity put on the topic by the Turkish government,” Chebli added.
After meeting Bartholomew, German Bundestag President Norbert Lammert talked about “fundamental obstructions in theological education and religious freedom,” criticizing the closure of the Theological School of Halki, while referring to the importance of good relations between the Turkish state and the various denominations present in Turkey.
In his remarks, Bartholomew expressed his contentment with Germany’s important and recognized current international and European role. He told Lammert that the Ecumenical Patriarchate only exercises a purely spiritual work, not engaging in politics, adding though, “This doesn’t mean that the Holy Centre of the Orthodox Church and its head ignore or are indifferent to the problems facing contemporary man.”
In his meeting with the German President Joachim Gauck, a former pastor of the Evangelical Church, Bartholomew referred to the one million Greek Orthodox Christians currently living in Germany, while also calling for unity among Churches. He emphasized that his visit also aims to cultivate benevolent relations with the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church.