Russia asks Turks for return of Hagia Sophia to the Orthodox Church

Deputies to the Russian Duma have called upon the Turkish government to return Hagia Sophia to the Orthodox Church and allow its reconsecration as a cathedral. The RIA Novosti press agency reported that Sergei Gavrilov, head of the Duma Committee on property issues made the call following the downing of a Russian jet by Turkish fighters over the Syrian/Turkish border. Returning the cathedral, which was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, but in 1933 was turned into a museum by the secularist government of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, would ease tensions between Russia and Turkey, he said. Mutual friendly initiatives were needed by Russia and Turkey to allow the nations to “survive the test of strength.” He noted that President Vladimir Putin had permitted the construction of a new mosque for Moscow and had attended its inauguration on 23 Sept 2015. He said Russia now expected “the Turkish side’s friendly step — return of the Holy Sophia Cathedral of Constantinople to the Christian Church.” This would show Turkey and Islam placed “goodwill” above short term political interests. “Christians need to return to Hagia Sophia,” Mr. Gavrilov said.

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