Washington, D.C., August 6, 2010–Chris Spirou, President of the “International Congregation of Agia Sophia,” http://www.freeagiasophia.org, has asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to return the ancient Basilica of Agia Sophia, the seat of Orthodox Christianity for over one thousand years, located in Istanbul, Turkey, to a functioning Orthodox Church.
Agia Sophia, named for God’s holy wisdom, was violently and illegally seized by the Ottoman Turkish forces during the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. It was then converted into a mosque, its religious icons, frescos, and holy sites desecrated, and is currently a state-run museum.
“Lift the 557 year blockade on the holy Church of Agia Sophia – so we may pray, in it” said Mr. Chris Spirou, president of the International Congregation.
“Mr. Prime Minister – you and your government have it in your power to do the right thing, to undo the sacrilege of the seizure of our holy church, Agia Sophia, and return it to Orthodox Christians, which was and remains the center of worldwide Orthodox Christianity, just as the Vatican represents the locus of worldwide Catholicism.”
A representative delegation of the International Congregation will travel to Istanbul on September 17, 2010 to conduct the first holy liturgy in the Basilica after 557 years. The Congregation has invited Prime Minister Erdogan, leaders of the Muslim faith, and people of all faiths to join them to pray for peace.
Representing the International Congregation is Lanny J. Davis, attorney at the legal/media/legislative strategies firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates and former Special Counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98 and member of President Bush’s Civil Liberties and Privacy Oversight Board in 2006-07.
In a letter written to Prime Minister Erdogan dated June 28, 2010 and copied to Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., Namik Tan, Davis said, “I am convinced that you have a strong inner sense of right and wrong—and of doing the right thing, regardless of political consequences.”
Davis said, “I do believe there is no question that it is the right thing to do, to restore Agia Sophia, the holy place and the heart and soul of the Orthodox Christian religion, to its original status as a Christian Church.”
Further, he asked the Prime Minister to meet with him to “find a resolution of this issue in a way that would be welcomed by you and your Government as the right thing to do.”
The leadership of the Congregation will also hold a worldwide press conference at the beginning of September prior to the delegation’s trip to Istanbul to explain their efforts to date and their hope that Prime Minister Erdogan, leaders of the Turkish government and Islamic leaders from Turkey and around the world, will join them on September 17 to pray at the holy site of Agia Sophia.