The Russian Patriarch stated that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a “punishment from God” against the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I for granting Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Patriarch of Moscow Kirill’s statement came during an interview with Russian TV channel Rossiya-1, on the day that the Orthodox of Eastern Europe celebrate Christmas.
“I do not want to express any criticism to my fellow-citizen from Istanbul, however, unquestionably, everything that happened afterwards in Istanbul proves Divine Punishment,” he said.
“You took the Hagia Sophia of Kyiv from the Orthodox people, from the Orthodox Church, and you lost your own Wisdom. And the consequences came without delay because the sin was too great,” added the head of the Russian Church.
Patriarch of Moscow Kirill described the act of recognizing the Ukrainian Church as a “crime” but hinted that he would pray for Bartholomew as the alleged crisis “must be overcome together”.
However, Patriarch of Moscow Kirill has shown his own dissident ideas by suggesting that Hagia Sophia is a “monument to only the Patriarchate of Istanbul.”
The Greek Patriarchate of Istanbul has not conducted the liturgy for centuries nor had any rights over Hagia Sophia.
Granting of Autocephaly to Ukrainian Orthodox Church
On October 11, 2019, the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul greenlit the process for the Ukrainian church’s independence, over Russia’s objections, and with Ukrainian-Russian geopolitical tensions in the background.
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was created following the results of December 15, 2019, All-Ukrainian Orthodox Unity Council, where Epiphanius, the metropolitan of Pereiaslav and Bila Tserkva, was elected primate of the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
On 6 January 2019, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epifaniy received from Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul the Tomos of Autocephaly (independence) of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque
Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly 500 years – and most recently as a museum for 86 years.
After centuries of use as a church under the Byzantine Empire, in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by Mehmet II following his conquest of Istanbul.
In 1935, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum and in 1985, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
On 10 July 2020, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use as a mosque.
The court ruled that Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, and was presented to the community as a mosque.
According to the ruling, Hagia Sophia was defined as a “mosque,” a status that cannot be legally changed.
On 24 July 2020 following the opening ceremony, Friday’s prayers in the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque marked the first acts of worship there in 86 years.
The architectural treasure is also among Turkey’s top tourism destinations and is open to domestic and foreign tourists free of charge.