Russian Orthodox Synod: 'Pain and sorrow for Saint Sophia'

The leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church met in council after the decision to transform the basilica into a mosque open to worship. Appeals to the international community to act to maintain the special status of Hagia Sophia which "remains a church for millions of Christians around the world".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church " expresses its profound regret over the decision of the state leadership of Turkey to revoke the museum status of Hagia Sophia and to give it to the Muslim community for public worship". The Orthodox clergy of Moscow wrote in a statement approved after a session of the Synod, which took place between 16 and 17 July.

The decision, reads the text, “was taken with no regard for the petitions and explicit position of the Primates and hierarchs of the Orthodox Local Churches, representatives of foreign states, numerous international non-governmental and human rights organisations, and clerics of various confessions and religious traditions."

This choice, it continues, “has hurt religious feelings of millions of Christians all over the world, which can cause disturbance of interfaith balance and impair mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims both in and beyond Turkey".

At a time when Christians are persecuted in many places, “inflicts particular pain. Hagia Sophia was built in honour of Christ the Saviour, remaining a church in the consciousness of millions of Christians. And to the Orthodox Church this cathedral is of special historical and spiritual importance”.

The Synod "our hope for further promotion and strengthening of mutual respect and understanding between believers of various world religions, we also call upon the world community to render all possible assistance in maintaining the special status of Hagia Sophia, which is of timeless importance to all Christians”.