Religions for Peace Speaks Out on Hagia Sophia: Living Together with Peace and Respect

In a 24 July 2020 statement on Hagia Sophia, Religions for Peace reiterated its commitment to the universality of heritage as something that can create peace and respect for all faiths:

We, men and women faith leaders, come together in this moment of history, to speak as one voice.[1] We refer to the powerful statements already made about events around the Hagia Sophia, by some of us – including His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BartholomewHis Holiness Pope Francis, the World Council of ChurchesMiddle East Council of Churches and KAICIID. As we hear our Christian brethren, we raise our voices as faith leaders representing Baháʼí, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Indigenous Spirituality, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian faiths.

Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is meant to be shared with all the world.  We are committed to the universality of heritage as something that can create peace and respect for all faiths.

As faith leaders, we recognize and accept the sacred duty and the responsibilities of appealing to the highest instincts of our shared humanity, and service to the Divine within and among all. Continue reading

WCC letter to President Erdogan to keep Hagia Sophia as the shared heritage of humanity

In a letter to H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey, dated of 11 July, 2020, the World Council of Churches interim general secretary Rev. Prof Dr Ioan Sauca is expressing his fervent hope and prayer that Hagia Sophia will not become once again a focus of confrontation and conflict, but will be restored to the emblematic unifying role that it has served since 1934. Here is the content of the letter:

Dear Mr President,

Since it began functioning as a museum in 1934, Hagia Sophia has been a place of openness, encounter and inspiration for people from all nations and religions, and a powerful expression of the Republic of Turkey’s commitment to secularism and inclusion and of its desire to leave behind the conflicts of the past.

Today, however, I am obliged to convey to you the grief and dismay of the World Council of Churches – and of its 350 member churches in more than 110 countries, representing more than half a billion Christians around the world – at the step you have just taken. By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey’s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division. Regrettably, this decision has also been taken without prior notice or discussion with UNESCO regarding the impact of this decision on Hagia Sophia’s universal value recognized under the World Heritage Convention. Continue reading

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sends greetings to Pope Francis

This year, due to the pandemic of the coronavirus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was unable to send a delegation to the Church of Rome on the occasion of her Thronal Feast, the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, on 29 June 2020. Nevertheless, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent the following letter to Pope Francis:

His Holiness Francis, Pope of Elder Rome: rejoice in the Lord.

In concelebrating with You the all-sacred memory of St. Peter, Chief among the Apostles, along with St. Paul, Preacher to the Nations and “Apostle of freedom,” who joyously proclaimed the Gospel of the all-saving Divine Oikonomia and gave their lives as martyrs in Rome, we address to Your Holiness our wholehearted wishes and greet You in godly embrace.

The prevailing pandemic of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has rendered impossible the commission and presence of a formal Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Your See for the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome, as customary over the last decades. We participate from a distance in this festive joy and venerate here with devotion the sacred relics of Peter, the founder of Your Church, the brother of Andrew, our Patron and First-Called among the Apostles, as we also draw strength and blessing from those relics that You kindly gifted to the Church of Constantinople. Continue reading

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew about Hagia Sophia

On 30 June 2020, during the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the 12 Apostles celebrated in the church of 12 Apostles at Feriköy, Istanbul, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made the following comment concerning the fate of Hagia Sophia, the basilica of the Holy Wisdom built by Emperor Justinian in 537, which used to be the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until it was turned into a mosque in 1453 before it became a museum in 1935:

The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a widely discussed topic. In the context of the various discussions that have taken place about this subject, our Modesty has repeatedly expressed the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its spiritual children all over the world. In 2016, we even sent a Letter to the then Director of Religious Affairs, Prof. Mehmet Görmez, to whom we expressed our concern for the proposed alteration of the status of Hagia Sophia and we underlined that this unique monument obtained sacred value for both monotheistic religions, because it had served as a place of the worship of God for 900 years for the Christians and for 500 years for the Muslims. We concluded that Letter by saying that we consider as detrimental, Hagia Sophia, which, due to its dedication to the Wisdom of God is a point of encounter and a source of fascination for the faithful of both religions, to become, in the 21st century, a cause of confrontation and conflict. Continue reading

WCC Interim General Secretary meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

World Council of Churches interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on 24 June 2020 at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, to discuss preparations leading up to the WCC 11th Assembly, which will occur in 2022. They explored together how to strengthen relationships within the ecumenical movement, and augment the role of the Orthodox Churches.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened greetings and blessings to Father Ioan Sauca, who is the first Orthodox serving in this leading role. They also discussed at the meeting ways to foster the next generation of the leaders in the ecumenical movement and the role of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey.

Present at the meeting were Metropolitans Athenagoras of Belgium and Maximos of Switzerland, and the Permanent Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC Archbishop Job of Telmessos. Between 23-25 June, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was convened in Chambésy for its regular meeting of the current month.

Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy Synod discussed the mode of distribution of Holy Communion

Between 23-25 June 2020, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was convened for its regular meeting of the current month at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva. On the first day, the synodal members were engaged in their cooperative work with many of the Hierarchs of the Throne in Europe that were invited as well.

During this meeting, the Official Letters of Their Beatitiudes the Orthodox Primates that had been received thus far in response to the letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch to them of May 17th of this year, on the issue of the mode of distribution of Holy Communion that emerged after the appearance of the coronavirus pandemic, were read and discussed. It was satisfactorily determined that their opinion coincided with that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This consists of the following: Continue reading

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Celebrated His Name’s Day

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated his name’s day on 11 June 2020 in an unusual way due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, “as a family”, surrounded by the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, the members of the Patriarchal Court, the diplomatic representatives of Greece and Ukraine in Turkey, and by the small flock of the Queen City, as well as the numerous flock of the Great Church of Christ throughout the world, many of whom attended the service online.

The Ecumenical Patriarch stressed that “the power of God” is infinitely more powerful than the pandemic” in his address after the Divine Liturgy which he presided, surrounded by the clergy of the Patriarchal Court in the Patriarchal church at the Phanar for the feast of the Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas. “I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your presence and your wishes and prayers, and I entrust to you my patriarchal blessing full and undivided, always invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit, the celebrated Apostles and the 300 Chinese Orthodox under the leadership of Saint Mitrophanes who were martyred on this day 120 years ago for their holy faith in Christ”. The Ecumenical Patriarch reminded that on the same day the Church of Cyprus celebrates her Thronal feast, since Saint Barnabas is her patron and protector. He added that he sent a congratulatory message to her Primate, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, wishing him long life and good health and stability and unity to his Church. Continue reading

Message of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew On World Oceans Day 2020

The United Nations celebrates World Oceans Day every year on 8 June. Many countries have celebrated this special day since 1992, following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro. In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, as of 2009, 8 June would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day”. For this occasion, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent the following message: Continue reading

WCC executive committee met virtually

The World Council of Churches executive committee met virtually on 1-3 June 2020 due to the pandemic of COVID-19. The WCC executive committee announced its interim staff leadership roles on 3 June. Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca was confirmed as interim WCC general secretary; Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus appointed interim WCC deputy general secretary for Unity and Mission; and Doug Chial appointed interim director of the WCC Office of the General Secretariat. They will hold their posts until the WCC central committee meets in June 2021. Pedroso Mateus will continue to serve also as director of Faith and Order and Chial as responsible for the IMD. Pedroso Mateus and Chial were appointed by the WCC executive committee at an online meeting held on 3 June, on the recommendation of the interim general secretary. They will hold their posts until the WCC central committee meets in June 2021.

The WCC Staff Leadership Group is led by the interim general secretary, and in addition consists of the two deputy general secretaries and the interim director of the WCC Office of the General Secretariat. Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri continues as deputy general secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia as before, as do the other previous members of the Staff Leadership Group, director of Finance Elaine Dykes, and director of Communication Marianne Ejdersten, in their present roles and mandates.

The executive committee, on behalf of the central committee of the World Council of Churches, has decided, in close consultation with the Evangelical Church in Germany and other host churches and local partners, to postpone the 11th assembly, originally planned for September 2021 in Karlsruhe, Germany, until 2022. The decision, announced on 3 June, was made because of the gravity and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hoped that an assembly in 2022 will provide a better opportunity to secure the full participation of the ecumenical fellowship. The location in Karlsruhe will remain the same. The Orthodox pre-assembly will also be postponed to 2021. Continue reading

Correspondence of the Ecumenical Patriarch with Primates of other local Orthodox Churches regarding the way of distribution of the Eucharist

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, following the wish of the Mother Church of Constantinople to have coordination and, as far as possible, uniformity between the local Orthodox Churches on the extremely important question of the Divine Eucharist and of the way of distributing it to the faithful, sent the following letter on 17 May 2020 to all his brothers their Beatitudes the Primates of the local Orthodox Churches: Continue reading