The Decision on Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Worries Pope Francis
Turkey’s decision to turn the world-famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul back into a mosque has been unpleasant for Pope Francis. The building was once a church, then a mosque and now a museum.
My thoughts are with Istanbul. I think about St. Sophia, and it hurts me, said the Roman Catholic prince on Sunday when he gave his weekly blessing on St. Peter’s Square.
The strict Islamic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree allowing Muslims to pray in the historic building. They are welcome for the first time on July 24.
His plan immediately received strong criticism from, among others, the Orthodox Christian countries of Greece and Russia. European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas was also opposed.
Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral by the Byzantines in the sixth century. The imposing building in the then Byzantine capital Constantinople was once the centre of the Orthodox Christian world.
Erdogan emphasized in his speech that the nearly 1,500year-old shrine remains open to Christians and foreigners except for Muslims.
A Turkish court approved Erdogan’s decision.