Pope "very hurt" for turning old Istanbul church into a mosque



Pope "very hurt" for turning old Istanbul church into a mosque

Greece has condemned the move and UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would examine the status of Hagia Sophia.

Pope Francis said Sunday that he was hurt by Turkey's decision to turn Istanbul's Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, joining other religious leaders who have rejected the move.

"My thoughts are with Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia and it hurts a lot," he said during his weekly blessing in St. Peter's Square.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said the first prayers will be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24, after declaring that the ancient monument was again a mosque following a court decision revoking its museum status.

The World Council of Churches has asked Erdogan to revoke his decision, and Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians based in Istanbul, called it disappointing.

Erdogan said that the nearly 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia, which was once a Christian cathedral, would remain open to Muslims, Christians and foreigners.

He added that Turkey had exercised its sovereign right to turn it into a mosque and that it would interpret the criticism of the move as an attack on its independence.

Greece has condemned the move, and UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review the status of Hagia Sophia and that Turkey's decision raised questions about the impact on its universal value as a site of importance that transcends borders and generations.

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