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    Vatican City's Istanbul representative: What damage if Pope prays for a couple of seconds at Haghia Sophia?

    Hürriyet Haber
    20.09.2005 - 00:00 | Son Güncelleme:

    Though still pending in its details, a potential visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI has stirred up controversy in Ankara as well as Vatican City circles. At the center of concern for some Turkish officials is what would happen if the Pope were to visit, and then pray, at Istanbul's Hagia Sophia. Their trepidation is that if the Pope prays at the Hagia Sophia, he would, however unwittingly, be undermining the historical structure's current status as a museum. This week's edition of the Turkish magazine Tempo carried an interview with Vatican City's Istanbul representative, Georges Marovitch, in which he answered questions on the subject. In the interview, Marovitch underlines how exaggerated the fears of some Turkish officials are, pointing to a past visit to the Hagia Sophia by then Pope Paul VI. Said Marovitch, "At the time of Pope Paul XI's visit, Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil was the Foreign Minister. They toured Istanbul together. When he came to the Hagia Sophia, the Pope got down on his knees and said "May God forgive us for the Catholic-Orthodox split of the 11 century, and for all the pain that has followed." The next day, this was covered in all the newspapers. There was even questioning that took place in the Parliament. Caglayangil defended it by saying "We have no mosques in Europe. They give us their churches and say 'You may worship here.' So don't make an issue our of this." If the Pope comes, of course it would not be appropriate to have a mass in the Haghia Sophia; because it is a museum now. But if he goes down on his knees for a couple of seconds while visiting it, what could really happen?...."
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