In a letter to “the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America,” Archbishop Elpidophoros and the Archdiocese’s Holy Eparchial Synod called upon faithful to observe a national day of mourning on July 24, the day when Muslim prayers are scheduled to begin at the recently converted Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
“We urge you to invite your fellow Orthodox Christians and indeed all Christians and people of goodwill to share in the following observances,” the letter reads. “We ask that every Church toll its bells in lamentation on this day. We call for every flag of every kind that is raised on the Church property be lowered to half-mast on this day.”
The announcement comes almost one week after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree to convert Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from a museum into a mosque.
Archbishop Elpidophoros had sent a prior letter on July 12 urging faithful to make their voices heard “from Washington state to Washington D.C.” in response to Erdogan’s actions, which have prompted international outrage and condemnation from political and religious leaders worldwide.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s full letter follows
To the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Again and most fervently, the Members of the Holy Eparchial Synod of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, under the presidency of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, write to you with urgency, determination, and great faith; for we have heard your cries of anguish and pain over the seizure of the Great Church of Holy Wisdom, our Ἁγία Σοφία. We know that your hearts are broken and, for you as well as our Ἁγία Σοφία, we have spoken out and will continue to do so “in season and out of season,” (εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, II Timothy 4:2), and we will not relent in our pursuit of justice and righteousness.
Therefore, knowing that on Friday, July 24th, there will be an ‘inauguration’ of this program of cultural and spiritual misappropriation and a violation of all standards of religious harmony and mutual respect, we call upon all the beloved faithful of our Holy Archdiocese to observe this day as a day of mourning and of manifest grief. We urge you to invite your fellow Orthodox Christians and indeed all Christians and people of goodwill to share in the following observances.
We ask that every Church toll its bells in lamentation on this day. We call for every flag of every kind that is raised on the Church property be lowered to half-mast on this day. And we enjoin every Church in our Holy Archdiocese to chant the Akathist Hymn in the evening of this day, just as we chant it on the Fifth Friday of the Great and Holy Fast.
Let us, in this time of grief and mourning, appeal to the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. She is the “only Hope of the hopeless” (Ἡ τῶν ἀπελπισμένων μόνη Ἐλπίς), and as we chant to Her in the Akathist, “the Repository of the Wisdom of God, the Treasury of His Foreknowledge” (Σοφίας Θεοῦ Δοχεῖον, Προνοίας Αὐτοῦ Ταμεῖον, οἶκος Ρ).
Therefore, with complete faith in the Foreknowledge of our Trinitarian God, and in the Divine Plan for our salvation (oἰκονομία), we entrust the future of our beloved Ἁγία Σοφία to His Wisdom, and we supplicate She who is the very Treasury of that Knowledge and the Repository of that Wisdom to intercede for us, to comfort us, to give us Her strength, and to manifest to us Her counsel, that we may ever do and say that which is pleasing in the sight and in the hearing of Her Son, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, Who together with the Holy Spirit is worshipped One God, unto the ages of ages. Amen!
With paternal love in our Lord Jesus Christ,
† ELPIDOPHOROS, Archbishop of America
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston
Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver
Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta
Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit
Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh
Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco
Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey
Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago
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