“A group of Greek Americans and Greek nationals led by a man named Chris Spirou attempted unsuccessfully to enter Turkey this week with intentions of conducting a Greek Orthodox liturgy in Agia Sophia-- once the greatest church in all of Christendom which is now a museum in Turkey.”
Dear Mr. Pappas, the liturgy was to be conducted by Despot Chrysostomos of Ukraine and three other priests of the Orthodox Church; not by the President of the “International Congregation of Agia Sophia”, Mr. Chris Spirou.
Mr. Pappas dares to write that: “The group-- with no apparent approval, authorization or blessing from an organized church body including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America or the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople-- was stopped at the border crossing before entering Turkey.”
The Archdiocese of America has the authority over all Greek Orthodox churches and their flock within the United States. Given the opportunity, I would like to inform you that Agia Sophia – the mother church of Christianity is located in Constantinople (or Istanbul, if you prefer) in Turkey… some 6000 miles east of the United states in a different nation….
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, located in Constantinople (or Istanbul, if you prefer), has no jurisdiction over Agia Sophia, since as you proudly say, it has been called a museum nowadays. A museum in which all sorts of animals live and act freely and in which trade and fashion shows are being held; without the slightest reaction against this basic human rights abuse. Unfortunately, our holiness – the Patriarch – has no authority over the mother church of Christianity and, unfortunately our Patriarch feels like he is being crucified in Turkey every day, as he said in an interview on CBS. The Turkish authorities have been informed about the attempt of the International Congregation of Agia Sophia on a Press Conference given on 17 Sept. 2009; that is a year before.
“The move was a publicity stunt and a provocative action that ultimately does harm to the institution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the remaining members of the Greek minority in Istanbul. The move could ultimately derail efforts in recent months by the Turkish government to lift restrictions on religious minorities in the country.”
Calling the will of about 200 people to exercise their basic human right to pray freely in the mother church of Christianity a “publicity stunt” is at least suspicious, dear Mr. Pappas. Please enlighten the world by what moves exactly, the Turkish government tries “to lift restrictions on religious minorities in the country” as you state?
How can anyone seek change “within the existing framework of civility and the law” if one is a captive and if one lives a nation, which is constantly sentenced for its thousands of human rights abuses? How can any society be called civil and democratic if the laws are not subject to revision by the people? How can any Christian respect any law that allows anyone to destroy a sacred place like the orthodox basilica of Agia Sophia?
Where is the mosaic of Christ the savior, Mr Pappas?
Which civil society and which respect of which laws are you exactly talking about?
Mr. Pappas, you become offensive when you write: “They are not a group of renegades seeking to bust open the doors of a building that was once a church and perform liturgies under the watchful eye of TV cameras (not to mention nationalist groups looking for any excuse to inflict harm).”
The International Congregation of Agia Sophia did not intend or attempt to bust in any doors. The fact that you use such language is interesting… By the way, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that “conquest does not mean ownership”. In other words, sir, the Ottomans who later became Turks had no right to alter our church into anything else that what it was intended to be… the mother church of Christianity,
Yet, Mr. Pappas writes something interesting here: “On the contrary, their efforts, led by their spiritual advisor Fr. Alex Karloutsos who understands both the spiritual and political ramifications of their actions, are well thought and systematic and have yielded much success and positive change in Turkey.”
Please Mr. Pappas, enlighten us… give us some details on what you see as positive changes in Turkey.
“Another sign of change is the recently completed Greek Orthodox liturgy in Pontos that was held under the approval of the Turkish government.”
Of course it was. But... it also was a great publicity stunt for Mr. Erdogan who was put above god since the Patriarch officially thanked him for allowing him to pray to God. Mr. Pappas…. NOBODY AND NOTHING has authority over anyone’s religious convictions, practices, or buildings. Please try to realize that.
Here you show that you have no idea what you write about, Mr. Pappas: “On that note, if Mr. Spirou and his followers wanted to experience a liturgy in Turkey, why didn't they join the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and 2,500 followers in the historic Panagia Soumela monastery in the region known as Pontos on August 15th?” …. “You got your 15 minutes of fame. You got your name in Google news.”
The International Congregation recognizes only the authority of God to determine whether it should be allowed to pray to God or not. As far as Mr. Spirou is concerned, I would suggest you learn how to research and read the abundance of material that has been published on him before you slander him… you know… slander may have some legally binding consequences…