Bulgaria’s nationalists see chance to exploit Hagia Sophia issue

For Bulgaria’s government, reconversion of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque is a matter of “deep regret”, while for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, it is a matter of “concern”.

In Sofia, members of Bulgaria’s Muslim minority held a celebratory prayer at the landmark Banya Bashi mosque in the centre of the capital city. According to Turkish media, Turkey’s chief mufti Ali Erbaş has invited his Bulgarian counterpart Mustafa Hadzhi to join him in prayer at Hagia Sophia.

Ahead of the reconversion of Hagia Sophia (built in the sixth century as a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral, to which status it reverted after a spell in the 13th century as a Roman Catholic cathedral, and which from the mid-15th century until the early 20th was a mosque), Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry stated its official position.

“We join the calls of the international community to preserve the existing access to the monument, given its history and its symbolic significance for Christianity and Islam. We expect the universal historical value of the monument to be preserved as part of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage,” the Foreign Ministry said.

(Photo montage: Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and the Banya Bashi mosque in Sofia)

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Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.