Istanbul’s Chora to open as mosque for Muslim prayers on Oct. 30

Istanbul’s Chora (Kariye) church, which was re-converted into a mosque in August, will open its doors for Muslim prayers on Oct. 30, the head of Turkey’s top religious body, Ali Erbaş said on Tuesday.

The 11th century structure, which was converted into a mosque around 50 years after the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453 and has served as a museum since 1945, will welcome Muslim worshippers for Friday prayer this month, Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, said on Twitter.

Turkey ordered the re-conversion of the Istanbul church into a mosque inAugust with a presidential decree published in the Official Gazette

The move arrived on the heels of the re-conversion of the city’s famed Haghia Sophia into a Muslim house of worship in July, after a court annulled a 1934 presidential decree that made it a museum.  The decision sparked criticism from Greece, the United States and other Western countries as well as from Orthodox Christian leaders.

The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora is located in Istanbul’s Fatih district and was constructed as part of a monastery complex in the fourth century during the Byzantine era.

Thousands attend the first Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia July.

“May the Almighty Creator never leave us without the sound of the adhan from minarets,’’ Erbaş said. “May this bring happiness to our nation and the whole Muslim world.’’