In an extraordinary move, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called on its 70 million faithful to join Greek Orthodox in recognizing the national day of mourning that was designated for Friday, July 24 by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.
In a public statement, the body, which comprises all Roman Catholic bishops in the United States, called on Catholics to recite the Rosary prayer— a Catholic prayer similar to the Akathist Hymn that Orthodox Christians have been called to chant on July 24, the first day that Muslim prayers will be recited in Hagia Sophia following its conversion into a mosque.
The statement by the Roman Catholics:
“The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is inviting all Christians and people of goodwill to join in a Day of Mourning on Friday, July 24 for the conversion of the #HagiaSophia in Istanbul back into a mosque after serving for over eighty years as a museum. The museum was a place of encounter and dialogue between people of all faiths and cultures. The Greek Orthodox have asked that every Church toll its bells, every flag be raised to half-mast and that the Akathist Hymn is chanted in the evening. For Catholics unfamiliar with the Akathist Hymn, the recitation of the Rosary is recommended, as both prayers entreat the Mother of God for her intercession.”
Shortly after the announcement that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was converting the Byzantine cathedral from a museum into mosque, Pope Francis expressed his “sadness.”
The Pope stood in silence for several minutes at his weekly Angelus prayer last Sunday, after he talked about Turkey’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia.
“The sea takes my thought a bit far, to Istanbul,” the pontiff said during the prayer, which commemorated people who work at sea. “I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened.”
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