Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus stated that Turks “remained uncivilised, coarse” in his statement concerning the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, however, he added that Europeans “see their rigid economic interests and nothing else”.

“We can learn a lot from it. We must stand on our own two feet. Let’s not wait any longer,” he said after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, according to an announcement by the Archdiocese of Cyprus. “There are no allies, no brothers, no supporters, and this must teach us to work and stand on our own two feet, on our own capabilities, to support our own homeland, no matter how weak we are. If we are united, we can overcome all difficulties, having God as our helper and supporter.”

Archbishop Chrysostomos said he was “saddened” by the decision to convert hagia Sophia but added that it will not lose its value as a centre of Christianity.

He said Hagia Sophia “went down in history and no power can understate its value and what Turkey achieves is its own degradation, because it has not learned to respect history and culture; because it did not produce culture and does not respect culture.”

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He was highly critical of Turkey’s treatment of Greek heritage.

“Turkey has learned to destroy, to appropriate the cultures of others and sometimes, when it is beneficial to do so, destroys them and falsely presents cultures as if it were part of its history,” he said.

“We know Turkey very well and we have witnessed the destruction of our own monuments for half a century and we have been begging through the United Nations for half a century to allow us to preserve our religious monuments and they refuse to do so, although they can maintain their monuments in the free areas.”