Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Reflections upon Hagia Sophia

Having posted about Hagia Sophia only yesterday my sense that this is a story that will ‘run and run’ was confirmed by two things which came into my e-mail inbox this morning.

The first is taken from the latest bulletin from LifeSite News, which provides a well documented news service on a wide range of Catholic matters, not just Pro-Life issues. The writer examines the Islamic thought behind the surahs used in the first Muslim Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia since it reverted to being a mosque. It can be read at Muslims’ first prayer service in former Catholic basilica explicitly rejects Christianity

The style of the post might be a little more forceful than one might feel entirely comfortable with, but it does show the limits to inter-faith dialogue if traditions are to be true to themselves. That fidelity is in so many ways preferable to seeking a ‘lowest common denominator’ compromise. One can respect the other, whoever that may be, without sacrificing one’s beliefs.

The other mailing I received was from a friend who now lives in the Balkans and is from an English language Orthodox newspaper. Being Orthodox it does have occasional sharp things to say about Catholicism but it, and the three
appended comments are, dare I say, not unsurprisingly, more critical of other fellow Orthodox...

That said the article and comments are well worth reading and bear out that the decision and implications about the use of Hagia Sophia will not be one that will go away. They makes good points about how we, as societies, present the past, and what we choose and do not choose to celebrate. The ownership of the past is not by any means a simple matter of title deeds and admission charges. 

They also raise issues about how Orthodox believers and societies might seek to respond. Whilst being specifically Orthodox in their terms of reference the same issues are there for the Latin West and its affiliates as much as for the Greek East.

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