The Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, commented to RIA Novosti on the decision of the Turkish authorities to return the status of a mosque to another former Orthodox church – Church of the Holy Savior in Chora:
“Today, the media spread a message about the transformation of another Orthodox church in Turkey into a mosque: the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, which functioned as a museum since 1945.
Just like Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This church has preserved its original appearance the most from all Byzantine temples in Istanbul. Its magnificent mosaics and frescoes are outstanding examples of Byzantine art of the Palaeologus Renaissance. Obviously, they will also be unavailable for review, as it was done with the mosaics of Hagia Sophia, despite assurances from the Turkish authorities that they will be available to visitors at any time except for Muslim prayer hours.
It is regrettable to observe the demonstrative disregard of the religious feelings of Christians around the world by the current leadership of Turkey, which is difficult to justify by any reasonable arguments. The trampling of the priceless Byzantine cultural heritage can hardly be of any benefit to the Turkish state. But such steps will certainly not contribute to maintaining Turkey’s international reputation and strengthening interreligious harmony in this country and throughout the world.
Russian culture and history are successively connected with the glorious past of the Eastern Roman Empire, and therefore we cannot remain indifferent to such sad facts.”