Bishops in Turkey say they can not intervene in the event that they plan to transform Hagia Sophia right into a mosque

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The interior of the old Christian church of Hagia Sophia, now a museum that could be turned into a mosque.Reuters

The Catholic bishops of Turkey refuse to question plans to convert Hagia Sophia, a listed cathedral, into a mosque.

The Turkish government has been heavily criticized for the plans, which are expected to be approved by the courts on July 2.

The Turkish Bishops' Conference informed the Catholic Intelligence Service that they could not comment on the issue.

"We are a church from which legal status has been withdrawn, so we cannot give advice on this country's internal issues," they said.

"Although we would like Hagia Sophia to maintain its character as a museum, it is not our job to intervene or express our opinion on a decision that affects only the Republic of Turkey."

Throughout its long history, Hagia Sophia was a Catholic place of worship, orthodox in the 11th century, and a mosque for five centuries before it finally became a museum in 1935.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said last week that converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque was "not a question of international affairs, but a question of national sovereignty".

The Orthodox leaders in Greece have protested against the plans. The synod said earlier this month that any change in the use of the building would "cause strong protest and frustration among Christians worldwide and harm Turkey itself".

According to the Aleteia news agency, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Patriarch Sahak II, has suggested that Christians and Muslims share Hagia Sophia as a place of prayer.

"Let the world greet our religious peace and maturity," he suggested. "Let Hagia Sophia become the symbol of human peace."

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