Pope Francis on guest list of Hagia Sophia reopening - Erdoğan aide

The head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis is among the guests invited to attend Hagia Sophia’s reopening as a mosque, Turkish Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Sunday

Turkey invited everyone, including Pope Francis, to the iconic structure’s opening ceremony as Muslim house of worship on Friday, Kalın told CNN news.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 10 announced the opening of the Hagia Sophia to Muslim worship after Turkey’s highest administrative court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal.

Originally built as a Byzantine cathedral in 537, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul on May 29, 1453, and then became a museum in 1935 under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s presidency. 

On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his disappointment with the controversial move.

“My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia and I am very saddened,” he said during his weekly blessing in Saint Peter’s Square.

Meanwhile, workers in Istanbul have rolled up their sleeves to prepare Hagia Sophia for its debut as a mosque after decades of serving as a museum.

Workers are placing dark green carpets, a colour chosen by Erdoğan, on the ground, Habertürk reported on Monday.

Christian symbols and images, which adorn the walls of the structure, are set to be covered with a curtain system as part of an Islamic requirement that no images of living beings are present in the prayer area.

“We are making some arrangements to make sure that they will be covered but not touched during Muslim prayers,” Kalın told CNN.

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