The judgment of the Turkish courtroom paves the way in which for the conversion of Hagia Sophia right into a mosque

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A Turkish court has paved the way for the conversion of the former Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque.

The highest administrative court in Turkey decided on July 2 to revoke the 80-year-old decree that declared the construction of a museum from the 6th century. The verdict was announced on July 10.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to make the final decision as to whether Hagia Sophia will return to a mosque – something he vigorously campaigned for.

Christian leaders in the Middle East and the United States have spoken out in favor of maintaining the status quo at the historic site.

The Eastern Orthodox ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said that the Turkish people have a responsibility to "make the universality of this wonderful monument shine" as a museum, "the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam is. ”

Patriarch Bartholomew said in his sermon during the divine liturgy at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Istanbul on June 30, in front of Hagia Sophia, the Fides news agency reports.

Hagia Sophia belongs "not only to those who currently own it, but to all of humanity," he said.

The Eastern Orthodox Christian leader warned that the conversion to a mosque "will push millions of Christians around the world against Islam".

"A threat to Hagia Sophia is a threat to all Christian civilization, that is, to our spirituality and history," said Moscow patriarch Kirill on July 6. The former basilica of Constantinople is "one of the greatest monuments of Christian civilization".

"What could happen to Hagia Sophia will cause deep pain to the Russian people," said the Russian Orthodox Patriarch.

The Hagia Sophia, which means "Holy Wisdom", was built in 537 under the Byzantine emperor Justinian. For a time it was the largest building in the world and the largest Christian church. It served as the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople before and after the great schism that divided Western and Eastern Christianity into Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. Under the Ottomans, architects added minarets and buttresses to preserve the building, but the mosaics with Christian images were whitewashed and covered.

In 1934 the mosque was turned into a museum under a secular Turkish government. Some mosaics have been uncovered, including depictions of Christ, the Virgin, John the Baptist, Justinian I and the Byzantine empress Zoë Porphyrogenita.

It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. When the museum becomes a mosque, it is believed that the mosaics must be covered during Muslim prayers, as well as the seraph figures that are in the dome of the tall basilica.

Turkey's 82 million inhabitants are predominantly Sunni Muslims. Non-Muslim minorities make up only 0.2% and the Christian population is divided into several Orthodox and Catholic churches and other groups.

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