Presentation of the Volume “Hagia Sophia. The Churches of the Wisdom of God around the world”, Bucharest, 7-10 December 2022
A delegation of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (I.A.O.), headed by the Secretary General Dr. Maximos Charakopoulos, visited Bucharest from 7 to 10 December for the presentation of the Volume: “Hagia Sophia. The Churches of the Wisdom of God around the World”. The composition of the I.A.O. delegation to Bucharest included the member of the Hellenic Parliament Mr. Ioannis Sarakiotis, the Members of the Parliament of Egypt Ms. Dina Abdelakarim and Mr. Emad Khalil, the Member of the Parliament of Georgia Mr. Irakli Kadagishvili, the Palestinian Member of the National Council Mr. Fuad Kokaly and the I.A.O. Advisor Dr. Kostas Mygdalis. On behalf of the Parliament of Romania, the head of the Romanian delegation to the I.A.O., Mr. Ionut Vulpescu, the Member of the Parliament and President of the “Hellenic Union of Romania”, Mr. Dragos Gabriel Zisopol, Mr. Gabriel-Ioan Avramescu, Colesa Ilie-Alin and Feodor Silviu. During the presentation –which was held on Thursday, 8th December 2022 at the premises of the Romanian Parliament-, the I.A.O. Secretary General highlighted, inter-alia: “Romania claims a special place in the history of Christianity and Orthodoxy. The seed of teaching the Gospel was sown in this country, during the apostolic age by the First-Called Apostle Andrew who preached the word of God in the so-called Scythia Minor. Since the 3rd century, an ordered Church operates as a place for the wider Greco-Roman world. Representatives of the local Church participated in the Ecumenical Councils, as early as the 1st, the 1700th anniversary of which we will celebrate in 2025. This hallmark has been preserved throughout centuries despite the historical adventures and major changes caused by successive invasions and movements of populations. On the contrary, Romania became a stronghold of Orthodoxy in absolute connection with Byzantium. But even after the fall of Constantinople, in Romania Orthodoxy remained strong and flourishing, contributing to the unity of the Romanian nation”. Regarding the initiative for the publication of the Volume on the Churches dedicated to the Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia), the head of the I.A.O. pointed out the serious issue arisen with the conversion of Hagia Sophia Church in Istanbul into a mosque, stressing: “Turkish scientists and media report that if there is no immediate intervention, with the daily influx of thousands of visitors, the monument will have been destroyed by 2050. Can we stand idle by such indecent behavior? The I.A.O. has made its decision. We are trying to awaken the international public opinion and to coordinate our actions. Institutions, such as UNESCO, governments, parliaments, ecclesiastical authorities, the academic community, civil society, we all have a say in everything that happens. We need to prove that in the 21st century a return to medieval practices is not allowed”. During the event, addresses were presented by the Advisor to the President of Romania, Mr. Sergiu Nistor, the Advisor to the Prime Minister for Education and Research, Professor of Philosophy, Mr. Sorin Costreie, the Vice-President of the Parliament, Mr. Vasile-Daniel Suciu, the Vice-President of the Academy of Romania and former Minister of Culture, Prof. Răzvan Teodorescu and the representative of the Patriarch of the Church of Romania, Fr. Mihai Tița. Moreover, the event was attended by the ambassadors of Greece Ms. Sofia Grammata and Georgia Ms. Tamar Beruchashvili. Among the speakers, the Advisor to the President of Romania, Mr. Sergiu Nistor pointed out that the Parliament building, which was intended for a “Temple of Atheism” finally became the place where Christianity and Orthodoxy are discussed. Moreover, he braced the need for friendship and cooperation among the Orthodox. The Advisor to the Prime Minister Mr. Sorin Costreie stated that the I.A.O. activity and the debate organized on Hagia Sophia is beyond national, religious and social boundaries, above political parties and “colours”. In addition, he called for action to end the war in Ukraine, which has caused great destruction and suffering. The representative of the Patriarch of Romania Fr. Michael Tița delivered a message from the Patriarch, welcoming the I.A.O. initiative for the presentation of the Volume on the Churches dedicated to the Wisdom of God. Mr. Ionut Vulpescu, Member of the Parliament of Romania, head of the Romanian delegation to the I.A.O. noted that unfortunately, there is a de-sanctification of the modern world, and we must rediscover the values of our culture, the ones bequeathed to us by Byzantium. He also referred to the I.A.O. activity for the unity of Orthodoxy. The Vice-President of the Academy of Romania and former Minister of Culture, Mr. Răzvan Teodorescu referred to the abundant contribution of Byzantium, and especially of the Fathers of the Church, from Cappadocia, and the other regions of Asia Minor, and how their rational created a synthesis with the Greco-Roman world that influenced Europe. Finally, the I.A.O. Advisor Dr. Kostas Mygdalis highlighted the goals of the I.A.O. for the unity of the Orthodox in a rapidly changing world, stating that no one should stand alone, and at the same time for the need for Europe, to upkeep its values, taking in consideration that the Christian values of its history constitute a significant position. On the sidelines of the event, the I.A.O. Secretary General discussed with the president of the “Hellenic Union of Romania”, Mr. Dragos Gabriel Zisopol, issues concerning Greeks of Romania, while he also had a meeting with children of the Greek communities of Romania who attended the presentation of the Volume. It should be noted that in the premises of the Parliament, the Exhibition with photographs of the Hagia Sophia Churches around the world from the I.A.O. international photography competition, were also presented. In addition, the I.A.O. Secretary General commended the president of the “Hellenic Union of Romania”, Mr. Dragos Gabriel Zisopol, for his contribution to the publication of the Volume in the Romanian language. Meeting with the President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament The I.A.O. delegation had the opportunity to hold a meeting with the President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of Romania, Mr. Marcel Ciolacu, during which the head of the I.A.O. underlined the following: “We live in troubled times, a war in our wider neighborhood between two Orthodox peoples. As an institution, from the first moment we denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine and asked everyone to respect international law and we consider it very important that our organization be strengthened as a channel of dialogue and peaceful coexistence. That is why we thank you for giving us the opportunity to present the Volume on Hagia Sophia, in Romanian language, here at the seat of the Romanian Parliament. I want to once again thank you for the support that your parliament – one of I.A.O.’s founding members – has provided throughout these 30 years to our inter-parliamentary institution”. The President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament congratulated the head of the I.A.O. for the activity of the institution he represents and the initiative to highlight the subject of Hagia Sophia, through the specific Volume. He also mentioned that Romania, although it is by majority an Orthodox country, respects all minorities and recognized religions. The head of the I.A.O. invited the President of the Chamber of Deputies to the 30th anniversary since the establishment of the I.A.O., in Athens, summer of 2023. Participation in events of the Embassy of Greece in Romania The I.A.O. Secretary General, during his stay in Bucharest, accepting the invitation of the ambassador of Greece in Bucharest, Ms. Sofia Grammata, addressed the event dedicated to the 31st anniversary since the establishment of “OMONOIA” Publications. The I.A.O. delegation had a meeting with the leadership and members of the Hellenic-Romanian Chamber of Commerce, and congratulated the president Mr. Christodoulos Seferis, the Secretary General Mr. Giannis Alfieris and the members for their effective activity of the Chamber. Finally, the I.A.O. delegation accompanied by the Advisor Dr. Kostas Mygdalis visited the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation, one of the 14 most significant monuments in Bucharest. The church -which combines ancient Greek and Byzantine elements-, was built in 1899, and it was renovated in 1999. Visit to the heroic Dragatsani During their stay in Romania, the members of the I.A.O. delegation visited Dragatsani to attend the ceremony held before the Monument honouring the fighters of the Sacred Battalion of Dragatsani in June 1821. The «Hellenic Union of Romania» organized the ceremony, on the official visit of the I.A.O. in Bucharest. After the memorial service, the I.A.O. Secretary General stressed that: “Here in the martyrdom of Dragatsani, we reverently bow before the monument for the young people who fell heroically fighting in favor of Faith and Country, in June 1821. We worship the place soaked with the blood of the Sacred fighters, who, against logic, believed they would defeat an empire. Their sacrifice remains a model of patriotism, self-sacrifice and love of freedom… I want to thank the Romanian Parliament and the Mayor of Dragatsani for their warm welcome and hospitality, and congratulate the Union of Romanian Greeks whose work is becoming a bridge of friendship and cooperation between the Greek and Romanian people”. The ceremony was also attended by Mr. Ioannis Sarakiotis, Mr. Ionut Vulpescu, Mr. Dragos Gabriel Zisopol, the Mayor of Dragatsani, Mr. Cristian Nedelcu, the deputy mayor, Mr. Adrian Zaoulet, and the I.A.O. Advisor Dr. Kostas Mygdalis. The ceremony ended with laying of wreaths at the monument on behalf of the I.A.O., the Romanian Parliament and the Municipality of Dragatsani. Before departing Dragatsani, the delegation visited the area where the battle took place, where the “Hellenic Union of Romania” has built a church.