‘Goodwill gesture’: Russian MPs want Turkey to give Hagia Sophia back to Orthodox church

Turkey’s downing the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter did not go unnoticed: a group of deputies of the State Duma are mulling over the idea of returning Istanbul-based Hagia Sophia Cathedral to the Orthodox church, rbc.ru reports.

“The Russian side considers it possible to remind of Hagia Sophia, one of the oldest Christian holy places and the ancient Byzantine cathedral, which is now situated in Turkey. We expect from the Turkish side a friendly step – to return the Cathedral to the hands of the Orthodox church of Konstantinople. The Russian side is ready to provide financial assistance and enlist the best Russian restorers and scientists’ aid in the restoration of the ecumenical Christian artifact. Such step would help Turkey and Islam to show that the good will is above politics,” MP Sergei Gavrilov said.

Interestingly, Gavrilov is a member  of the Communist Party faction and yet at the same time, a coordinator of the inter-faction deputy group on protecting Christian values.

Hagia Sophia (from the Greek ‘Holy Wisdom’) is a former Christian patriarchal  basilica  built by emperor Justinian the Great. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as a Greek Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. When Constantinople was seized by Turks, the building became a mosque (from 29 May 1453 until 1931). It was then secularized by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and opened as a museum in 1935.

Belsat.eu, phot. by Radomil talk ,Wikimedia Commons

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