Pope Francis expresses his sorrow after Hagia Sophia was declared a mosque
Pope Francis expressed his sorrow on Sunday after Turkey decided to turn the former Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.
In improvised remarks after reciting the Angelus, the Pope recalled that July 12th is the Sunday of the day when the worldwide Church prays for seafarers.
“And the sea carries me a little further away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia and I am very sad, ”he said, according to an unofficial translation from the Holy See press office.
The Pope seemed to refer to the decision of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to sign a decree on July 10 that made the 6th-century building an Islamic place of worship.
The President's decree was signed within hours of a Friday court ruling that illegally ruled an 80-year-old government decree converting the building from a mosque to a museum.
The Pope's comments followed the publication of articles in the Orthodox Christian media asking why the Vatican had not commented on the decision.
The ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Christians, said that the building's previous status as a museum had made it a "symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam".
In a sermon on June 30, he said that Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, “belongs not only to those who currently own it, but to all of humanity”.