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    00 7/12/2020 9:45 PM

    On April 16, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI turned 93.


    I was going to correct a terrible oversight on my part, which was my failure to post my translation of Marco Tosatti's blogpost following the noontime Angelus led by the pope in St. Peter's Square. A post today by Tosatti gives me the perfect opportunity to make up for my omission.

    China and Venezuela:
    Similar beneficiaries of
    Pope Francis's aphasia

    Translated from

    July 12, 2020

    Dearest friemds amd enemies of Stilum Curiae,
    You will recall that last Sunday, we reported the sudden cancellatiom from the pope’s post-Angelus statement of a paragraph dedicated to the situation in HongKong. The words he chose not to say were words of conciliation, of an exhortation to dialog and respect for human rights, and the rejection of any kind of violence.

    But to the surprise of all the journalists [who had been provided one hour earlier with a copy of the entire prepared remarks tahtthe pope would deliver after the Angelus prayers], the paragraph on HongKong was not delivered. As I explained in last Sunday’s post, the prepared statement came with an embargo that it was not to be published until it had been delivered. So since the Hongkong statement was not delivered at all, it was as if it had not been written at all.

    [My personal note on this embargo business: Usually an embargo is placed on extraordinarily important documents – such as Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address – whose premature divulgation could trigger undue controversy before the embargoed document becomes valid by virtue of being actually delivered, as written. I am not aware that in Benedict XVI’s time, a post-Angelus address had ever been placed under embargo, but it appears from what Tosatti discloses here, that a similar episode had occurred two years ago when this pope was supposed to have addressed the terrible plight of political prisoners under Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro.]

    It is not the first time this has happened. Two years ago, an appeal that the pope was supposed to have made about the human rights of Venezuelans detained by Maduro – an appeal contained in the prepared bulletin on the post-Regina caeli papal remarks – was similarly omitted.

    But at the time, only Marynellis Tremamunno of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana took note of the Bergoglian omission, for doing which she received warnings and threats. I thank her for reminding us of that episode. I repost herewith that article in Bussola, along with the Vatican video of the pope’s Angelus that day. From minute 9:00 of the video, one will note that the pope looks up and stops reading from the paper he iwas reading from.

    The appeal for Venezuela contained in the Vatican press bulletin for the Regina caeli today (5/20/18) surprised Vatican journalists today. [Unlike the July 5, 2020 statement, the 2018 statement was not embargoed in any way. Obviously, the Vatican was apprehensive of possible Communist Chinese readction than it was in 2018 about any possible reaction from Maduro, whom the pope has, after all, always treated with kid gloves.]

    But for the first time, Pope Francis would have launched an appeal urging respect for the lives of those illegally detained by Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela. The words he was supposed to say after the Regina caeli prayers included these:´”I would like once again to dedicate a thought for beloved Venezuela. With the help of the Holy Spirit, may everyone strive to find the right, efficacious and peaceful solutions to the grave humanitarian, political, economic and social crises which are stremando the Venezuelans people, avoiding the temptation to resort to any type of violence. I encourage the authorities of that country to insure respect for the life and integrity of every person, especially those, who like the detainees, are under their direct responsibility”.

    Instead Pentecost Sunday turned out to be April Fools’ Day for Venezuelans. After the Regina caeli prayers, the pope raised his head to look at the 30,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to say words quite different from the prepared text from the Secretariat of State, saying instead: “I wish to dedicate a particular thought for beloved Venezuela. I ask that the Holy Spirit give all the Venezuelan people – everyone, governing authorities as well as the population – the wisdom to find the way of peace and unity. I also pray for the detainees who died yesterday”, clearly not reading from the prepared statement.

    It was a strange way to remember his ‘beloved Venezuela’ for the pope to censor out any message that might be misconstrued to be against the socialist dictator Maduro. Just look at the prepared statement which adverts to the violation of human rights in its final sentence, with the words the pope actually said ,to understand how difficult it is for the Argentine pope to state a clearcut position against Hugh Chavez’s dauphin, Nicolas Maduro.

    In the case of Venezuela, it was not the first time that Bergoglio sought to ‘soften’ his words about Maduro’s government, but never as obviously as yesterday. But what is happening to detainees in Maduro’s Venezuela? Why did the Secretariat of State think it important enough to be included in the prepared statement for the pope?

    The bishops of Venezuela had just issued an alarm over the situation of Maudro’s political prisoners. In a communique published on May 17, 2018, the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference made an appeal “to the State, to its responsibility for the life and integrity of all detainees. To guarantee human rights is a fundamental and non-transferable obligation of governments."

    The same day, the prisoners of El Helicoide had an uprising to demand justice and freedom. But they were not ordinary prisoners, but a group of 58 political prisoners including politicians, students and activists. According to the NGO Foro Penal Venezolano, dedicated to the defense of victims of political persecution, 35% had previously been released on bail but continued to be illegally detained by the political police, namely, the Venezuelan intelligence service SEBIN. Besides the prisoners at El Helicoide, more than 330 other ‘political dissidents’ were arrested by the regime and under detention.

    But El Helicoide is not a prison – it is a center of torture, according to the Alfredo Romero, president of the Foro Penal, whose organization has been receiving the denunciation by the detainees of the tortures they have to undergo. “Our telephones do not stop ringing with persons testifying to the physical and psychological violences taking place in El Helicoide. It is terrible – we hear of persons hanging from the ceiling, naked, and receiving blows and buckets of ice water, not to mention sexual violence”.

    “No one can be deprived of dignity”, is the title of the communique from the bishops (using a phrase from Pope Francis) referring to El Helicoide “where citizens have been detained for reasons that are political in nature”.

    The bishops call on Venezuelan authorities “to respect the lives of those who are under their responsibility” since they “are held in institutions of the Venezuelan state”. They demand “respect for the human rights of everyone and a peaceful solution to the problem”. Precisely the words in the statement prepared for the Pope by the Secretariat of State, but which he preferred not to deliver.
    - Marynellis Tremamunno

    Here is Tosatti's July 5 post on the pope and China:

    Is Beijing muzzling the pope?

    Bergoglio chose not to deliver prepared words about the situation in Hongkong after Angelus prayers today;
    statement had been embargoed by the Vatican to be published only if delivered, but it was not

    Translated from

    July 5, 2020

    Dear friends and enemies of Stilum Curiae,
    This morning, the pope was supposed to make a statement about the crisis in HongKong after the noonday Angelus prayers. The statement, distributed to the media shortly after 11 a.m., said:

    In the past several days. I followed with particular attention, and not without concern, the complex developing situation in HongKOng, and I wish first of all to express my heartfelt nearnedss to all the inhabitants of that territory.

    In the current context, the issues involved are doubtless very sensitive, touching on the lives of all [residents of HongKong] – that is why it is understandable that there should be marked sensitivity in this regard. I hope, nonetheless, that all persons involved will face the various problems in a spirit of forward-looking wisdom and authentic dialog. This requires courage, humility, non-violence, and respect for the diognity and rights of everyone.

    I therefore formulate the proposition that social life, especially religious, can be expressed in full and true freedom, as provided for in various international documents [about HongKong]. I accompany with my constant prayer the emtire Catholic community and persons of goodwill in HongKong, so that together they may construct a prosperous and harmonious society.

    Instead, shortly before the pope was to appear at the window of the A[postolic Palace for the noonday Angelus, the media was informed that he would not be pronouncing the above statements about HongKong.

    Why? There was no official answer to this question. Theoretically, since the statement was under embargo until it was actually said by the pope, which he never did, officially, it is as if the statement had never been written. But they were written out beforehand, as every Vatican reporter knew.

    What we do not know is what pressures Beijing might have exerted so that the pope would not bring up the tragedy of the former British colony in his Mondovisione appearance for the Angelus, even if the statement was phrased in the most sensitive [read tactful] and peaceful way possible.

    This episode casts one more light – worse than ever, if possible – on the infamous secret agreement signed by the Holy See and Beijing in Sept 2018. The consequences of that secret accord have since weighed heavily on the life of the Catholics in China, especially considering that the Vatican has chosen to ignore the increasing and increasingly open anti-Catholic persecutions in China.

    The agreement bids to be one of the most conspicuous errors of Vatican diplomacy and of the pop,e who desired and fully endorsed the agreement, with provisions [regarding the nomination of Chinese bishops] that his predecessors had opposed.

    The inevitable question remains: What means did Beijing employ to muzzle the pope today?

    Many other blogs subsequently reposted and commented on Tosatti's post.
    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/12/2020 9:49 PM]
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    00 7/14/2020 5:52 AM

    Amid all the verbiage about Vatican-II, present as well as over the past 55 years, Aldo Maria Valli has written perhaps the most perceptive diagnosis of its
    fundamental and 'fatal' error - without needing any arguments pro or con, he cuts to the chase and nails his conclusion. In 6 words, it explains everything
    that went wrong about Vatican II and its unfortunate consequences... The post is a transcript of his latest weekly broadcast for Radio Roma Libera.

    Vatican II and its fatal error:
    The desire to please the world

    Translated from

    July 12, 2020

    The subject of Vatican II is like an underground river. Even if for some time, it does not emerge onto the surface, we know it is there, profoundly affecting our membership in the Church. So whenever it resurfaces, as it has recently with the debate ignited by Mons. Carlo Maria Viganò, then immediately, the subject provokes passions and divides Catholics. Because one cannot just circumvent the subject.

    For many of my generation (I was born in 1958), Vatican II for decades was not a problem – it was simply a fact. Born and raised in the post-Vatican II church, I saw in the Council something ineluctable: that it was necessary for the Church to make some choices at a certain point.

    Afterwards, when I started to study the pre-Conciliar Church and realized the confrontations and wounds which marked the Vatican II sessions, I oscillated between two tendencies. On the one hand, a kind of regret for not having lived through a period that must have been difficult but also exciting; on the other hand, the desire to better understand the viewpoint of those who, against the ‘spirit of the times’, warned against the outcome of Vatican II and the use that would be made of it in the future.

    Now that I am approaching old age and I feel the need to get to the essence of my faith, I think I can say, in all humility, and as a simple baptized person, that Vatican II was impelled by a fatal error – the desire to please the world.

    I realice that my statement may seem hasty, and I apologize to the scholars of this topic, but the more I study the years of the Council, the more I am convinced that on the part of wide sectors of the Church, starting with Pope John XXIII, there was a kind of inferiority complex with respect to ‘the world’, a world that at that time was already in ferment and appeared so vital. Thus, the desire that the Church not appear behind the times and to show a sympathetic face to the world, in the literal sense: sympathetic, meaning to suffer together, to participate in the world’s joys and sorrows, avoiding any show of superiority or of being judgmental.

    I remember that, whenever I conversed with the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, when he was Archbishop of Milan [Valli wrote a biography of Martini in 2013], he often said that the Conciliar Church was a Church of intercession. To intercede, the cardinal said, means 'to walk in the midst of’, which is what John XXIII wanted: to walk amidst the rest of the world, not above or ahead, but certainly not behind.

    Martini recounted that for him, Vatican II was like opening the Windows and allowing fresh air into a Church which had the smell of closedness and mold. Those were his exact words, and I imagined those men of faith who, inspired by so many intellectual stimuli, became enthusiastic about theological and moral questions in order to allow the word of the Gospel to show itself again in all its beauty and in all its novelty, rid of any ornaments and encrustations. But the fundamental problem remained – as I mentioned earlier – namely, the desire to please the world.

    Now, I certainly do not intend to psychoanalyze the Council, but it is really difficult to get rid of the impression that, at bottom, the need to please the world was there all along. Papa Roncalli’s optimism was that of someone who, tired of a Church that seemed to be losing ground to ‘the world’ and was regarded as some sort of grim unpleasant old aunt, wished now to show herself as a loving and sweet mother, trustworthy and welcoming.

    An understandable desire. Except that from the moment that the Church, more or less consciously, wishes to please the world, then it fatally begins to betray herself and her mission. Because Jesus never wished to please the world, nor did he make any compromises of any kind just to appear sympathetic and ready for dialog.

    Certainly, the Council opened windows and allowed fresh air in. But along with the pleasant sensation of freshness, the ideas of the world, marked by sin, also came in, and contaminated the Church.

    What do I mean when I say ‘marked by sin’? It means simply, marked by the will to put man in place of God, because this is what sin means, today, as yesterday, as at any time.

    Of course, not all this started with Vatican II, because some underground streams had been running for some time. But Vatican II was when the desire to please the world – namely, to put man in God’s place – emerged with clarity.

    Yet the true tragedy of Vatican II was something else. The Church began the operation of ‘re-styling’ and ‘renewal’ necessarily behind the rest of the world. Because that’s the way it is: whenever the Church has tried to emulate the world, it is always behind the times. Because the world, moving along the pathway of sin – namely, putting man in God’s place – moves fast and keeps inventing something new. The Church, no matter how she tries, can only try to follow.

    And so, even as Vatican II proceeded to catch up to the world, the world was already realizing, even if in confused ways, that man’s desire to be autonomous of God cannot lead to anything but enormous disasters in any area – from social and political to cultural and moral. [Yet it has not given up its deification of man and individual conscience, in particular, as the only norm.]

    Within the Church, there were only a few who realized that Operation Sympathy was marked by evident theological contradictions but also by a strategic error. The prevailing narrative [in the world] was already going in another direction, against the narrative imposed with great intensity on the Council (by some, out of good faith and authentic enthusiasm, by some in bad faith and out of calculation), and there was little that the Council could do about this, as we continue to see today.

    [Yet during the Council years and ever afterwards, the media of the world onesidedly reported the Council yielding to the world since what they reported of the Council was the progressivists’ versión of the Council – what Benedict XVI called ‘the Council of the media’ - completely ignoring the views of the ‘conservative’ Council Fathers who were by far the numerical majority. Unfortunately, in agreeing on compromise language to reach a consensus with the progressivists on issues like religious freedom, ecumenism and relations with non-Christian religions, they were as much responsible as the progressivists for all the anti-Catholic, even anti-Christian, consequences of Vatican II.]

    In conclusion, I would say: Let the debates come [and continue], even inflammatory ones, about Vatican II. Anyone who wishes to take part, on whatever side, would help the Church to look within and ask herself healthy questions. [What ‘Church’ though? Certainly not the Bergoglian church which is already the outspokenly secular 'religious' counterpart of the United Nations. More UN than the UN, in fact. The Church that Benedict XVI described as "the same today, as it was yesterday, and as it is for always" has no organized leadership, and no cardinal has thought it worth while to lead in reclaiming the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church from those who have institutionalized the ersatz church constructed according to the infernally insufflated 'spirit of Vatican II'.] It is time for the Church to do this, in all honesty. But it is important not to continue with the method of reciprocal ‘excommunication’ and invective.

    It is curious that Vatican II, which expressly set out not to be dogmatic, has itself become a dogma. If we could look at it as an event of many faces, with the hopes it gave rise to, but also with all its intrinsic limitations and the errors of perspective that marked it, then we would do great service to the Church and to the quality of our faith.
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    00 7/14/2020 1:08 PM

    Another 'clamorous' case of Bergoglian aphasia...

    Pope spares 8 words
    for Hagia Sophia
    reverting to a mosque

    by Jules Gomes

    July 13, 2020

    VATICAN CITY ( - Pope Francis broke his silence on Hagia Sophia at the end of his Angelus address Sunday to deliver a six-word non-condemnation of Islam's takeover of the world's greatest Byzantine basilica.

    "I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened," is how Vatican News translated Francis's statement from the Italian: "Penso a Santa Sofia, e sono molto addolorato."

    Francis began his post-Angelus address offering greetings for International Sea Day and after addressing seafarers for a few minutes, said: "And the sea takes me a little far with my thoughts: in Istanbul."

    The Holy Father then dropped in six words — not counting a single letter preposition and conjunction — almost in parenthesis, on the historic crisis facing Hagia Sophia.

    Francis added further greetings and ended his address wishing the audience "a good lunch."

    Speaking to Church Militant, distinguished Islamic historian Robert Spencer blasted Francis's equivocation.

    "The pope's tardy statement manifests a studied ambiguity," Spencer said. "What exactly is he saddened about? He doesn't say."

    "Is he saddened because what was the foremost church in the Christian world for nearly a millennium, and the center of Eastern Christianity, has been made a mosque?" Spencer asked.

    Or is he saddened because this act harms the dialogue he has so ardently pursued with the Islamic world — even at the price of silence over the Muslim persecution of Christians — and demonstrates that his dialogue partners are not remotely as interested in tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence as he likes to pretend that they are?

    The author of the bestselling The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS continued: "Has he made this unclear statement because he doesn't wish to say anything clearly in support of maintaining Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, for fear of offending those Muslim dialogue partners?"

    "The conversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque should be the occasion of some introspection on the pope's part, leading him to reconsider the value of a Muslim-Christian dialogue that has not prevented this expression of Islamic triumphalism and supremacism. But it almost certainly will not be," Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, concluded.

    Church Militant has repeatedly called out Pope Francis for his silence on Hagia Sophia, pointing out the failure of the pontiff's controversial "Human Fraternity" pact with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb signed in February 2019.

    The Islamic 'takeover' of Hagia Sophia violates the Abu Dhabi declaration, which calls for "the protection of places of worship — synagogues, churches and mosques" as "a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements."

    Greece described Islam's occupation of Hagia Sophia as a "provocation to the civilized world" with culture minister Lina Mendoni pointing out that "the nationalism shown by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan takes his country back six centuries."

    Francis, an unrelenting critic of Western nationalism, has never rebuked Erdoğan for his rabid Islamic nationalism.

    Instead, in February 2018, the pope invited Erdoğan to the Vatican and gifted him with a symbol of peace at a time when Turkish forces were continuing their military offensive against Kurds in Syria.

    The pontiff presented Erdoğan with a bronze medallion portraying an angel embracing the world while battling a dragon.

    "For the first time since his election, I actually pity Francis," Catholic academic John Zmirak told Church Militant. "This timid squeak of distress about the profanation of one of Christendom's holiest places ... it might even come from the heart."

    "Francis recalls to me one of the lost souls in C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, who may leave Hell if they wish. But they've built inextricable traps of pride, sloth, wrath, or other vices," the author of the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism lamented.

    "Francis has trapped himself in the Woke ideology of the post-Christian left. He cannot condemn abuses unless they're the fault of Designated Villains. That is, white, straight, orthodox Christian males," Dr. Zmirak explained.

    "When Islamist Turks, or Chinese Communists, or secular abortion activists victimize the weak, Francis' mouth is stuffed. His Manichaean hatred of the West and its past renders him a moral idiot," Zmirak excoriated.

    Earlier on Friday, the Orthodox Times ran a scorching editorial on the Vatican's failure to speak out: "The unjustified silence of the Holy See and personally of Pope Francis on the burning issue of the conversion of the emblematic church of Hagia Sophia into a mosque causes concern and sadness in the Christian world."

    "At a time when the whole world, both religiously and politically and academically, has taken a clear stand against Turkey's intention to once again defile the temple of the Wisdom of God, the loquacious and ever-sensitive bishop of Rome is … silent," it remonstrated.

    This "is the second time in the history of Hagia Sophia that a global appeal has been made for its protection, and unfortunately Rome prefers not to get involved," the editorial observed, recalling Constantinople's conquest by Muslim invaders in 1453.

    "Today, 560 years later, unfortunately, history repeats itself," the Orthodox journal lamented.

    On June 18, Turkey's Catholic bishops expressed reluctance to speak out on the Muslim takeover of the museum.

    "We are a Church that lacks legal status, so we cannot give advice on the internal affairs of this country," the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of Turkey said.

    "Although we would like the Hagia Sophia to maintain its character as a museum, we are not in position to intervene or even express our opinion on a decision that concerns exclusively the Turkish Republic," the bishops added.

    Global religious and secular leaders condemned the verdict of Turkey's highest administrative court which paved the way for Hagia Sophia to return to its conquered status as a mosque.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew earlier warned if Hagia Sophia was made a mosque it would "push millions of Christians around the world against Islam" and "cause a break between the two worlds" of East and West.

    "The concern of millions of Christians was not listened to," lamented Moscow Patriarchate's spokesman Vladimir Legoida.

    Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church called it "a blow to world orthodoxy," while Archpriest Nikolai Balashov said the event "could have serious consequences for the entire human civilization."

    Even the liberal World Council of Churches (WCC) denounced Turkey's decision, conveying "the grief and dismay" of its 350 member churches.

    "By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey's openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division," a WCC statement said.

    Pope Francis reticence on Hagia Sophia has been matched only by the silence of Anglican archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, a close ecumenical partner of the pontiff. On a visit to Istanbul in 2014, Welby categorically stated: "It [Hagia Sophia] should not become a mosque." But Welby, who hosted Grand Imam Al-Tayyeb at Lambeth Palace in 2018, has been tight-lipped on the Islamization of the basilica.

    "Both Pope Francis and Abp. Welby claim to have established terrific relations with the world's most important Sunni Muslim leader. President Erdoğan is a Sunni Muslim. Why, then, have neither of them used their interfaith partnership with Al-Tayyeb to bring pressure on Erdoğan?" Church Militant asked a Shariah scholar.

    "Because Islam, following the teaching of its prophet Muhammad, doesn't believe in honoring treaties with infidels," the scholar responded.

    On Friday, the Council of State, Turkey's top court, annulled the 1934 decision of president Kemal Atatürk's cabinet to turn Hagia Sophia into a museum as part of his secularist reforms.

    Immediately afterwards, President Erdoğan announced the resumption of Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia from July 24.

    Emperor Justinian the Great dedicated the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople to the Wisdom of God in 537. Sultan Mohammed II conquered Constantinople and converted the basilica into a mosque in 1453.

    Museum to mosque:
    Why Hagia Sophia matters

    by Ines A. Murzaku

    July 13, 2020

    Canceling history has become popular these days. It started in America but has spread to Italy, Spain, England, Belgium, and most recently Turkey. Some of the main techniques involve toppling and desecrating monuments and statues that function as outdoor museums, which tell the history of the people who have made history. You can start to know the history of a city by exploring the statues and monuments in city parks and common areas.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan just joined the others by declaring his intention to convert the majestic Christian Basilica, Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) – currently a national museum and one of the most visited sites of Turkey – into a mosque. And the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative body, has decided he may do so.

    What is the history behind Hagia Sophia?

    [It] is distinguished by indescribable beauty, excelling both in its size, and in the harmony of its measures, having no part excessive and none deficient; being more magnificent than ordinary buildings, and much more elegant than those which are not of so just a proportion. The church is singularly full of light and sunshine; you would declare that the place is not lighted by the sun from without, but that the rays are produced within itself, such an abundance of light is poured into this church.

    Procopius of Caesarea (circa 500-565 A.D.), a prominent Byzantine historian, described Hagia Sophia of Constantinople (now Istanbul) thus in his book De Aedificiis (On Buildings), written around 554. He also credited the Emperor Justinian for promoting this magnificent work, among others.

    Justinian’s church became an icon of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The emperor was so pleased with the result that during its dedication ceremony in December 537, he exclaimed: “O Solomon, I have surpassed thee!” comparing the church to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.

    For 900 years, Hagia Sophia was the center of the Byzantine Empire: the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople; the place where ecumenical councils were convened and emperors were crowned, and night vigils and majestic processions were held until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans on May 29, 1453.

    Sultan Mehmet II, walking through the streets of the conquered city, “dismounted at the door of the church and bent down to take a handful of earth, which he then sprinkled over his turban as an act of humility before God.”

    The sultan converted the Church of Hagia Sophia to the Great Mosque of Aya Sofya, which it remained until 1934, when a decree by the Turkish Republic’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, turned the building into a museum.

    In 1985, UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – declared it a World Heritage Site.

    Why does keeping the museum status of Hagia Sophia matter?

    It matters to history and it matters to people, both Christians and Muslims. It is important to preserve memory, and museums and statues are proven to be preservers of culture and religion – of what deserves to be kept, remembered, treasured, and transmitted to future generations.

    As a remembrance of both the Church of Hagia Sophia and the Mosque of Aya Sofya, the museum has had a proven legitimacy. The museum has not only served as a record of centuries-old history but also as a transmitter of knowledge from the Byzantine-Roman and Ottoman Empires to the Turkish Republic of Atatürk. This magnificent, once-religious object is a visible and tangible reminder of empires and religions of the Mediterranean world, beautifully synthesized on this site.

    Since early in his political career, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regretted Atatürk’s conversion of the Mosque of Aya Sofya into a museum. Instead, he prefers to cancel more than 900 years of Christian history, to the great consternation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the Russian Patriarch Kirill, and Pope Francis.

    For Bartholomew I, Hagia Sophia is a holy site in which East and West have embraced, and the cancellation of this memory will cause a sharp break between these two worlds. By keeping its status as a museum, the site would continue to serve as an example of solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.

    Patriarch Kirill of Russia considers the conversion of the Hagia Sophia museum to a mosque to be a threat to Christianity. In a recent interview with Interfax, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, expressed disappointment with Erdogan’s cancel-history attitude, saying: “Hagia Sophia is a world heritage site. It is not without reason that the talks about changing its status have shaken the whole world, and especially the Christian world. The church is devoted to Christ, Sophia the Wisdom of God is one of the names of Christ.”

    Just this weekend, Pope Francis, who has gone out of his way to cultivate relations with Muslims, spoke out with uncharacteristic frankness [???]: “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I’m thinking about Hagia Sophia. I am very distressed.”

    History cannot be destroyed, canceled, or changed. Even some Turks have objected to their president’s efforts to make it into a single, false story.

    For Catholics, history bears a transcendent meaning, a message to convey and a lesson to be learned – and the historian is called to discern the roots of that meaning. History is not linear or ideological – or, far worse, to be used for political purposes – but continually calls for new reflection and fresh analysis, so that the past is revisited and mistakes are not repeated.

    The great Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote in De Oratore, Historia magistra vitae est (“History is life’s teacher”). History, its monuments and museums, should not be destroyed or canceled, especially in an effort to dominate the present. They have a right to speak to us – and be heard.

    As for Hagia Sophia, time will tell how the cancel-history fashion will play out in Turkey. For now, it appears that Muslim prayers will once again be heard on July 27 in the most magnificent structure of the Eastern Church.

    Some of the great mosaics of Hagia Sophia:

    The Imperial Gate mosaic: Leo VI bows before Christ Pantocrator (the Almighty). The insets are Mary and the Archangel Gabriel.

    The Southwest Entrance mosaic: Justinian I, left, offers a model of Hagia Sophia, and onstantine I, right, offers a model of the city to the Theotokos (Mother of God).

    Top left, The Empress Zoe mosaic: Constantine IX Monomachos, left, and his Empress, Zoe, offer a money purse and a parchment of donation to the Pantocrator; bottom left, The Comnenos mosaic: Similar to the Empress Zoe mosaic, but this time, it is John II Comnenos and his Empress, Irene, making their offerings to the Theotokos; right, the great Theotokos mosaic in the apse over the main altar.
    One may better appreciate the scale of the mosaics if one considers the dimensions of Hagia Sophia: 269 ft long by 240 ft wide by 180 ft high (27 stories by 24 stories by 18 stories).

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