Pope Francis has reportedly said on Sunday that he was pained to see the transformation of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. The religious leader has condemned Turkey’s move. During his weekly blessing at St. Peter’s Square, he said that his thoughts go to Istanbul. He added, ”I think of Santa Sophia and I am very saddened.”
Tayyip Erdogan, President Turkey, said that the first Islamic prayers would take place in Hagia Sophia on 24th July. His statement came after a court revoked the museum status of Hagia Sophia in its judgment. The President declared the ancient monument to be transformed into a mosque once again.
Reuters reported that the World Council of Churches had urged Erdogan to reverse his decision. The Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew, expressed his disappointment. Greece has also condemned the judgment. In the official statement Greece said that while no one is interfering in Turkey’s internal affairs, the decision is an open challenge to the entire civilized world. As it is a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, a committee will review its status. Turkey’s decision has raised many questions about the impact of the transformation on Turkey’s relationship with other nations.
Official statement on Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.— UNESCO (@UNESCO) July 10, 2020
Hagia Sophia, part of the property “Historic Areas of Istanbul,” is inscribed on the #WorldHeritage List as a museum.
The inscription entails a number of legal commitments and obligations.
More: https://t.co/337lhrFZUw pic.twitter.com/vfxCsQQGRT
Erdogan, on the other hand, said that Turkey has the right to convert 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Any criticism of the decision will be seen as an attack on Turkey’s independence. He added that it would remain open for everyone, including Muslims, Christians and foreigners.
The monument was originally a Christian cathedral, which was later converted into a mosque, and then a museum. The monument was built as a Christian cathedral church of Constantinople between 532 and 537. In 1204, it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire, but in 1261 it was again restored to the Eastern Orthodox Church. After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, it was converted to a mosque. In 1935, the historical monument was secularized into a museum. And now in 2020, it is again being converted into a mosque.
In the official statement, Erdogan said that transformation of Hagia Sophia is just a small step towards the liberation of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.