05.07.2016

Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Greeks in Russia defends Christian religious monuments in Turkey

Relevant letters on behalf of the President of Autonomy Mr. Ivan Savvidi were addressed to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.

The main aim of these letters is to initiate a discussion of the status of Byzantine religious monuments located in Turkey, and its preservation for the Christian community in the course of forthcoming meeting of Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In particular the letter runs thus:

«Mr. Vladimir Putin!

I address you, because you are a committed Orthodox and leader of the country, where Orthodoxy is the main religion, in view of the current situation with Christian religious monuments located in Turkey.

Over the last years we see that religious monuments are destroyed by turning Byzantine temples and churches located in Turkey into mosques.

A mosque was opened in Hagia Sophia museum in Izmir in 2012. The church of Hagia Sophia in Trabzon shared the same fate in 2013. Other churches and temples are next in line; its faith is decided on the governmental level.

Of course the main aim of this campaign is the opening of an operating mosque in one of the biggest Christian monument- listed Constantinople temple of Hagia Sophia, which has the status of museum and is sacramental for the Christian community.

The first move is already made. This year during Ramadan (6th June-5th July) recitation followed by TV broadcasting is held there and supported by the government.

Orthodox Christianity voiced protest against actions of the Turkish government. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece expressed disapproval, called recitation an insult to the whole history of Christianity.

Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Greeks in Russia carries out systematic efforts to revive Byzantine religious monuments by sending letters to the relevant organizations.

In particular due to your support we managed to organize the first Orthodox service in ancient Byzantine Sumela monastery not far from Trabzon. But in 2016 Turkish part refused holding service referring this decision to maintenance works in the church.

We addressed the President of Turkey our request to reconsider the possibility of transfer the Church of Hagia Sophia in Trabzon, which was turned into mosque, to the Orthodox community. We proposed to build a new mosque instead of it, but still didn’t receive any answer.

Mr. Vladimir Putin. In the light of facilitation of the dialogue between Russia and Turkey, in behalf of hundreds of thousands Christians I ask you to raise the question concerning the status of Byzantine religious monuments in the course of the forthcoming meeting with the president of Turkey. Russia has always been defender of Christianity and the status of defender of the Christian religious monuments. »

In the letter to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill there are words of gratitude for help and support of Greek Diaspora in activities for revival of the Byzantine sacraments, and petition for inclusion the question of faith of Christian religious monuments in agenda of the forthcoming negotiations.