By Kostas Onisenko
“It is painful and extremely sad that the Turkish leadership is disdaining World Heritage sites,” the vice-chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov said, referring to the conversion of the Chora Church into a mosque.
However, that is not quite the end of the matter. Archpriest Balashov keeps dropping hints about the Ecumenical Patriarchate and especially about the Ecumenical Patriarch.
“The last shred of an erstwhile great culture has plunged into the darkness, the spiritual and cultural values of which the Russian Orthodox world has accepted as heritage from the Mother Church. The Patriarchate of Constantinople chose not to be first among equals of the representatives of the local Orthodox Churches but the ruler and the boss. It has been trying to break the unity of the Orthodox community worldwide with its actions. As a result, it has been, unfortunately, forfeiting any opportunity to exert influence, even in its own home. It is a pity.”
Finally, Archpriest Balashov highlights the fact that following the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, “access” to the monument is no longer free in order to see “the great masterpieces”, which remain covered. In addition, women’s access to the site is limited.
“It seems that the Turkish leadership is ready to continue to ignore the legacy of the conquered Byzantium, which remains a foreign concept to them. It has been treating Christian cultural values with cold indifference and a condescending attitude. Unfortunately, all this does not contribute to understanding, cooperation and friendship between our peoples or to mutual respect between the believers of different religions. It is something very painful to watch.”