Pangalos: Hagia Sophia belongs to neither Greeks nor Turks

Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos


Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos has clearly expressed his objection to attempts to hold a Greek Orthodox Liturgy at the former basilica of Hagia Sophia regardless of Turkish laws that bar any religious services there, saying that Hagia Sophia belongs to neither Greeks nor Turks but to all of humanity.

At the last minute, a group of about 250 Greek Orthodox Christians canceled its plans to hold a Divine Liturgy at Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish) on Friday after statements by Turkish officials that the planned service would not be allowed because any religious service in Hagia Sophia is banned under Turkish law.

Pangalos was in the Aegean city of İzmir over the weekend to attend a Turkish-Greek Media Conference. When he was reminded of the aforementioned group’s decision to cancel their plans, Pangalos first noted that neither Greek media nor Greek politicians lent support to this attempt in the first place.

“Hagia Sophia doesn’t belong to today’s Turks and Greeks, it belongs to the civilization of humanity,” Pangalos was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency when he spoke to reporters late on Friday.

According to Pangalos, “These kinds of architectural structures are protected by UNESCO as part of the heritage of humanity. In this regard, all kinds of moves to claim [such structures] are meaningless. I believe that any nationality visiting Hagia Sophia will have the same feeling at the entrance. Turks and Greeks should feel proud of this monument and should be more warm-hearted about it. Regarding Hagia Sophia, we should think about ‘how it will remain’ and ‘how it will be visited after us,’ instead of thinking ‘how we can own it’.”

20 September 2010, Monday