Russia’s Orthodox Church on Monday called on Turkey to display “prudence” in response to the stated intention by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to convert the iconic Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul Hagia Sophia, currently a museum, into a mosque.
In a statement, Russian Patriarch Kirill expressed his “deep concern” about such a prospect of any change to the status of “one of the biggest monuments of Christian civilization” which is “extremely dear to the Russian Church.”
“Any attempt to humiliate or trample on the thousand-year-old spiritual heritage of the Church of Constantinople will be taken by the Russian people – in the past as now – with bitterness and exasperation,” the statement said.
“A threat against Hagia Sophia is a threat for the whole of Christian civilization and consequently for our spirituality and our history,” the patriarch added.
Meanwhile, EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer was quoted by state-run Athens-Macedonia news agency (ANA-MPA) as telling a press conference on Monday that Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the issue “must be seen through this perspective.”
Describing the monument as a “symbol of tolerance [and] dialogue,” Mamer said the debate about its status must not be used “to fuel any sort of dispute between religions.”