10 July 2020, 21:47
Turkey's position on Hagia Sophia aimed at boosting domestic ratings, regretful - Slutsky
Moscow, July 10, Interfax - The head of the State Duma foreign affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, hopes that the change of status of the Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) will not lead to a rise in disconnect between religions.
"One remains hopeful that the position of the current Turkish authorities, based largely on the aim of boosting the domestic political rating, will not lead to a rise in inter-religious disconnect and imbalance," Slutsky told journalists on Friday.
He expressed his regret that "the president of Turkey did not heed calls from the Orthodox clergy, UNESCO and State Duma, and signed the decree which turns Hagia Sophia into a mosque."
"The wise decision of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkish state, to give Hagia Sophia the status of a museum temple has effectively been cancelled fully 85 years on," Slutsky said.
"For us, Hagia Sophia was and remains the unique monument of Byzantine architecture and a symbol of religious tolerance," he said.
For his part, Sergey Gavrilov, head of the Duma committee on the development of civil society and president of the General Assembly of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, said that having ceased being a museum Hagia Sophia could lose its frescoes and mosaics.
"A rejection of its Constantinople past will tell on Istanbul's appeal," Gavrilov told Interfax on Friday.
"The cathedral's change of status may cause the biggest regret among cultural figures, since the cathedral, as a monument of human civilization and a cradle of Christianity could lose its unique cultural worth: frescoes and mosaics.
"However, I do not think it possible to despair. We remember the reply of the Turkish leadership about Turkey treating all religions with respect, without discrimination or persecution on religious grounds. Orthodoxy has historically been represented in Turkey," Gavrilov said.
He expressed his hope that the "Turkish leadership will abide by democratic values and allow Christians living in Turkey, the pilgrims and tourists visiting the country, business people, to satisfy their spiritual needs and visit Russian Orthodox churches which will be returned or opened in Turkey to minister to millions of Christians, including those from Russia."