A parliamentary delegation of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) headed by the Secretary General Dr. Maximos Charakopoulos with the participation of its members Mr. Panikos Leonidou and Mr. Mile Talevski and the IAO Advisor Dr. Kostas Mygdalis, paid an official visit to Munich from November 12 to 15 2023.
The IAO delegation visited the headquarters of the Hanns Seidel Foundation and had a meeting with the head of the Institute for European and Transatlantic Dialogue, Dr. Wolf Krug, with whom they also explored the possibilities of cooperation and joint activities. The IAO Secretary General stated, “With the Hanns-Seidel Foundation we share common values and goals. We stand for Democracy, parliamentarism and the rule of law, based on Christian tradition. We condemn religious extremism, fundamentalism, intolerance wherever it comes from, and we promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue. We are inspired by Christian values and are in dialogue with corresponding organizations of the Catholic as well as the Islamic fields. Europe should recognize in the dialogue about its future, the decisive contribution that Christian values had in shaping the structure of European culture. In this context, I suggested to Dr. Wolf Krug that we explore the possibility of jointly undertaking actions that promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims. And I am happy because our proposal will be the beginning for discussion”.
The IAO delegation also visited the historic City Hall of Munich where it had successive meetings with the Commissioner for Culture Mr. Michael Dzeba, as well as with the municipal councilor and member of “Friends of Mount Athos” Mr. Clemens Baumgärtner. During the meetings, the IAO Secretary General referred to the international campaign launched by the organization to denounce the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque by the Turkish leadership.
The IAO delegation had extensive cooperation with the director of the Bavarian Council of Churches, Dr. George Vlantis. At the meeting, the members of the IAO had the opportunity to present the IAO activities and in particular, those about the protection of religious monuments from all kinds of violation and stress that such practices encourage extremism, religious fanaticism and ultimately terrorism, which we all experience in our days. Particular importance was given to the dialogue, in view of the momentum of 2025, when the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Easters coincide chronologically, along with the 1700th anniversary of the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. For this reason, it was proposed, if possible, that all Christians organize a joint event in Nicaea, Bithynia in Turkey, where the church of Hagia Sophia unfortunately, has also been converted into a mosque.
In the framework of the visit, the IAO members of met with the Vice President of the Bavarian Parliament Mr. Tobias Reiss (CSU).
The IAO General Secretary emphasized inter-alia: “The case of Hagia Sophia does not only concern Christians, but the entire civilized world. Hagia Sophia is a monument recognized by UNESCO as part of the world cultural heritage. I am happy because in Bavaria we are opening doors by raising the issue, but also for the common understanding of the crisis experienced by European societies, which in the name of multiculturalism and the integration of people with a cultural background completely foreign to European values, renounce their Christian roots”.
During the stay of the IAO delegation in Munich, the presentation of the volume “Hagia Sophia. The Churches of the Wisdom of God around the world” was held at the “Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew” cultural center of the Greek Orthodox Church of All Saints. The event was co-organized by the IAO, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Germany, and the training center for Orthodox Theology of the University of Munich.
At the event, Fr. Georgios Siomos, Head of the parish of All Saints, Mr. Stefanos Athanasiou, professor of Systematic Theology, dr. Anargyros Anapliotis, Commissioner for the teaching of Canon Law and the IAO Secretary General addressed the event, while the President of the Orthodox Theological School of Munich, Professor Konstantinos Nikolakopoulos, sent a greeting message.
The IAO General Secretary concluding his speech stressed the following: “allow me to share with you our deep distress over the tragedies happening these days in the Holy Land, in the long-suffering Middle East. The loss of so many thousands of lives fills us with sadness. The IAO condemns terrorism blinded by its ideology over the loss of innocent people. We hope that it will be understood by everyone that the solution to the problems cannot be war, but understanding, the search for common areas of cooperation. As in the other lasting war in Ukraine, let us hope that eventually reason will prevail, and peace will return.”
At the end of the presentation, the Byzantine Choir performed church hymns.