ROC believes Hagia Sophia's new status will impact the course of history

Fragment of a mosaic image of Jesus Christ in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia. Photo:

Turkey has taken a very symbolic step, unfortunately not aimed at strengthening peace and inter-religious harmony, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov noted.

The decision of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to turn Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque can “influence the course of history,” Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said.

According to the clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church, Erdogan "did not have enough state wisdom".

“It is a pity that in the minds of the Turkish president, the interests of immediate political success prevailed over state wisdom,” the Archpriest wrote on his Facebook page. “A step of tremendous symbolic significance has been taken, capable of influencing the course of history. And it’s very regrettable, however, that this step is not aimed at strengthening peace, inter-religious harmony, improving mutual understanding, in particular, between the peoples of Turkey and Russia.”

The clergyman published a photograph of the mosaic image of Jesus Christ made by him in Hagia Sophia in August 2018, in anticipation of a conversation between the Primate of the Russian and Constantinople Orthodox Churches on the issue of Ukraine, and expressed concern about the future fate of this image.

“The feeling of the relationship between what happened on that last day of August 2018 and today's decision to re-convert St. Sophia into a mosque ... Constantinople, Constantinople, the Queen of the City, Our Mother and the City of Our Most Holy Theotokos ... doesn’t want to secure what would do good to the whole Orthodox world, and now it came to pass,” the Deputy Head of the MP DECR said.

As reported by the UOJ, on July 10, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree on changing the status of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and said that on July 24, the shrine would open as a mosque for Islamic worship.

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