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NEW YORK – The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America expresses its deepest regret for the unexpected and continuing daily reading of the Koran in Hagia Sophia.

The United States, as well as Germany and Greece have already officially expressed very clear protests which emphasize verbatim: “We would encourage Turkey to preserve Hagia Sophia in a way that respects its tradition and also its complex history” and also stress that “Hagia Sophia is a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO and we wish Hagia Sophia be used in a way that does not alter its status as a World Heritage Monument.”

To the above reasonable voices of protest we add our own protest and strongly condemn this act of altering the internationally recognized status of Hagia Sophia.

We call upon those responsible for this action to consider the enormous responsibility they assume with the continuation of this practice and terminate the readings of the Koran in Hagia Sophia, a historic monument of global significance.

Hagia Sophia build initially, by Constantine the Great in 330 A.D., was rebuilt twice following respective fires, in the year 415 A.D. by Theodosius II, and finally by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who inaugurated the greatest church of Christianity, as we know it today, in 537 A.D. Since then, and until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the center and a symbol of Orthodox Christianity. From 1453-1934 Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque and its mosaics and fresco icons of great art and beauty were plastered over or destroyed. In 1934 it was converted to a museum and in 1985 was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site.