Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos has ordered church bells across the island to ring on Friday, marking what he described as a “criminal conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.”
In a written statement, Chrysostomos ordered bells in all churches and cathedrals belonging to the Church of Cyprus to toll at precisely 12 noon Friday in a single occasion for a period of five minutes.
According to the statement, a non-stop death knell for five minutes was ordered as a response to the “arbitrary, unacceptable, and criminal conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque by the Turks.”
The death knell was scheduled to sound in several locations across the Republic of Cyprus on the same day that an inaugural Muslim “Friday prayer” was to take place in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
Archbishop Chrysostomos ordered bells in all churches and cathedrals belonging to the Church of Cyprus to toll at precisely 12 noon Friday in a single occasion for a period of five minutes
Security was tight in the Turkish city especially outside Hagia Sophia, scheduled to reopen Friday for Islamic worship in the form of a congregation for the first time in 86 years.
The move has been criticized by world leaders, who either expressed disapproval or called on Turkey to show respect for the historic structure.
But Chrysostomos, who criticized Turkish authorities for allowing Hagia Sophia to revert from museum back to mosque status, used more direct language calling Turks “uncivilized and boorish.”
Greeks and Greek Cypriots consider Hagia Sophia the centre of Greek Orthodox Christianity. The structure was first built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral by the Byzantines and first converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest nine centuries later.
Following the fall of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, the historic structure later belonged to a foundation established by Sultan Mehmed II, the Ottoman leader who conquered the symbol of Byzantine glory in 1453.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed for a petition that successfully argued with the Turkish Supreme Court that the conversion into a museum in 1934 was illegal.
The Turkish public has also been divided over the decision, seen as the culmination of a debate on secular versus non secular issues that spanned for decades in Turkish politics and society.