Monday, November 27, 2006

Hagia Sophia - Vatican of the East

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: When the pope visits Istanbul this week, keep a close eye on him as he enters the Hagia Sophia -- what used to be the eastern version of the Vatican for the Ecumenical Patriarch. It was taken by Muslims at the end of the middle ages, was made into a mosque, and has been a museum since the 1920s. Any act of faith the pope makes, even crossing himself, while visiting there will be seen by Muslims as a papal claim on the ancient Church for Christianity. Personally, I hope he gives the place a full pontifical blessing! How can Turkey even consider becoming a member of the European Union if it does not allow religious liberty? I say let the pope say mass there if he likes, and then make sure he has police and military protection from the Turkish government if the Islamic-fascists outside decide to riot. If Turkey wants to be part of the Western world, than this is what it means. Freedom of religion is considered a sacred right in the West, if Turkish Muslims don't like it, than they had better get used to it. Otherwise, they can forget about affiliating with Europe, and join the rising Islamic Persian Empire in the middle east. Sadly, I doubt the pope will do anything provocative. This is probably more of a bridge-building mission. I doubt Benedict XVI will do anything to aggravate an already tense situation. It's times like these I long for the provocative days of John Paul II, when the pope thumbed his nose at communism in Poland, and then carried on as if to say "whadda ya gonna do about it!"

By Suna Erdem, Istanbul

The loudest boos, however, are reserved for references to the Pope’s proposed visit to Saint Sophia, the magnificent Byzantine basilica where Mehmed the Conqueror prayed after he took the city for the Ottoman Empire in 1453. It remained as a mosque until the Turkish Government turned it into a museum in the 1920s, to the annoyance of Islamists. If the Pope prays or so much as crosses himself when he enters the vast domed building, he will have staked a claim on the place, the protesters say.

Away from the scene, however, rather than complaining about the visit, secularist columnists have been upbraiding the Government about the mixed messages it has given the Pope and the lost opportunity to show that Turkey, a European Union candidate, is part of the Western world rather than a remote Islamic outpost...

read full story here