Patriarch Bartholomew bowed to Ankara’s Hagia Sophia decision - Russian Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church said the Istanbul-based Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew did not challenge, but bowed to the decision of the Turkish authorities to reconvert the iconic Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Russia´s news agency RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday.

“Some say Patriarch Bartholomew could have prevented the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, but he did not,” the agency quoted Ilarion Volokolamskiy, the chair of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, as saying on Montenegrin programme E-Litja.

“He could not prevent it ... The Turkish authorities ignore Patriarch Bartholomew,” Volokolamski added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 10 announced the opening of the Hagia Sophia to Muslim worship after Turkey’s highest administrative court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal.

Originally built as a Byzantine cathedral in 537, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul on May 29, 1453, and then became a museum in 1935 under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s presidency.

Some media representatives claim that Patriarch Bartholomew himself is to blame for the fact that Hagia Sophia became a mosque, Volokolamski said, “because he split the Orthodox Church, and God punished him for it.”

“The transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a blow to the entire world of Christianity,” he said.

UNESCO, a number of states, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church and many other churches of the world reacted with regret to Ankara’s decision to transform the formers seat of the Greek Orthodox Church into a mosque.

Russian government authorities have gone on record to say the decision of turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque was Turkey’s internal affair.