Pope Francis said on Sunday that he was hurt by Turkey’s decision to make the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul a mosque, and it is the latest religious leader to condemn the move. “My thoughts go to Istanbul,” he said during his weekly blessing in St. Peter’s Square. “I think of Santa Sofia and I am very hurt.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the first prayers will be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24, after he announced that the ancient memorial was once again a mosque after a court ruling revoked his status as a museum.
The World Council of Churches called Erdogan to overturn his decision, and was described by disappointing Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians based in Istanbul.
Erdogan said that the Hagia Sophia, which is about 1500 years old and previously a Christian cathedral, will remain open to Muslims, Christians and foreigners.
He added that Turkey had exercised its sovereign right to convert it into a mosque and would criticize the move as an attack on its independence.
Greece condemned the move and UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review the Hagia Sophia status and that Turkey’s decision raised questions about influencing its global value as a site of significance that transcends borders and generations.