ELCA Joins Faith Communities in Calling for Day of Mourning for Hagia Sophia
CHICAGO (July 21, 2020) — The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), calls on the church to join with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and faith communities around the world for a day of mourning on Friday, July 24.
The observance was called for in the July 19 encyclical from His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. It is in response to the decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey to convert the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul from a museum, its long-term status, to a mosque.
“We join with the Orthodox Christian family in mourning the Turkish government’s actions to make the Hagia Sophia a mosque,” Eaton said. “We share in their grief over this painful transition, which is set to occur on July 24, and commit ourselves to unrelenting prayer. We also will continue to speak out in solidarity with all people who are committed to restoring this sanctuary’s unifying purpose as a museum.”
Hagia Sophia was the preeminent basilica of the Christian world for nearly a thousand years, and the announced change of purpose is a source of significant pain for the Orthodox Christian family.
In a July 14 statement, the ELCA denounced Erdoğan’s decision, joining the voices of religious groups worldwide including the World Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Vatican, the Lutheran World Federation and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.
“With our Christian family, and with our Muslim neighbors, we remain united in our efforts to thwart that which would seek to divide us,” Eaton said. “The whole human family stands to benefit when the Hagia Sophia serves not only as a site for holy pilgrimage but as a sacred place for encounter and exchange among peoples of different religions and cultures.”
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands.,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
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