Turkey: Hagia Sophia a church and mosque, Armenian patriarch

'Worshippers better than tourists', like Erdogan's campaign

15 June, 13:20

    (ANSAmed) - ISTANBUL, JUNE 15 - Hagia Sophia should become once again a place of worship for Muslims and Christians, Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Sahak Mashalian has said, echoing the campaign launched by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reconvert Istanbul's landmark into a mosque.

    ''Hagia Sophia was built with the effort of 10,000 workers.

    It experienced many renovations and all these efforts were aimed at maintaining it as a place of worship, not a museum. I think the prayer of worshippers is more in the spirit of the temple, rather than tourists who walk around taking pictures. Hagia Sophia is big enough to provide space for Christians. Let's turn it into a symbol of peace of our time'', the patriarch, who was elected last year, wrote on Twitter.

    The debate was joined on Monday morning by Justice Minister Abdulahmit Gul. ''It is the only mosque accessible through a turnstile. We have the responsibility of ending this shame'', said the Turkish minister, stressing that it is a ''matter of sovereignty'' on which, despite international protests in particular by Greece, only Ankara has the right to decide. After being a Christian basilica for nearly a millennium and a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia in 1935 was transformed into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic. The Council of State on July 2 will rule on the legitimacy of its conversion into a mosque. (ANSAmed).

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