New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Hours before Friday’s national “day of mourning” for Hagia Sophia and Turkey’s planned inauguration of the glorious church of Christianity as a mosque, Archbishop Elpidophoros met on Thursday at the White House for half hour with Vice President Pence. When the President Trump learned about the presence of the Archbishop at the White House, summoned both him and Vice President Pence at the Oval Office that lasted 15 minutes.
According to a statement by Archdiocese, His Eminence “met with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on the concerns of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese over the seizure and re-conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.”
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 government for action and consideration.”
According to a post of Vice President Pence on his Twitter account, Elpidophoros asked him for Agia to remain accessible to people of every faith.
“As I told Archbishop @Elpidophoros today, 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. pic.twitter.com/OsuMMuXqBC
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) July 23, 2020 “
President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan has already promised that Hagia Sophia will be accessible to all faiths, while Turkish authorities have announced that there will be no entry fee from now on. In a cynical statement, a spokesman of Russian president Putin said that Russian tourists from now on will save money visiting Hagia Sophia.
A photo released by Archdiocese shows president Trump sitting behind his office and Archbishop Elpidophoros with Vice President Pence standing.
HAGIA SOPHIA AMENDMENT
The US House of Representatives passed on Thursday, by unanimous consent, an amendment offered by Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) objecting to the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The Titus amendment to the appropriations bill (HR 7608) – which was cosponsored by Congressmen Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Chris Pappas (D-NH), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) – calls on the State Department to “denounce Turkey for taking formal action to change the status of Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site spiritually significant to people of many faiths and backgrounds, from a museum to a mosque; and to engage with Turkey for the purpose of returning its status to a museum so as to welcome people of all faiths and those who have marveled at its architectural and artistic splendor.”