Pope Francis reiterated on Sunday that he was very saddened at Turkey’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
“My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia and I am very saddened,” he said to the faithful on Sunday during his weekly blessing in Saint Peter’s Square.
At the same time, the Turkish Presidential Spokesperson, İbrahim Kalın, stressed that Turkey had invited everyone to the mosque, including Pope Francis.
İbrahim Kalın told CNN that historic mosaics “are part of our cultural heritage.” “We are making some arrangements to make sure that they will be covered but not touched during Muslim prayers,” said the Turkish official.
The spokesperson of the Turkish presidency reiterated that the Hagia Sophia mosque would be open to all and its historical mosaics would be preserved, as had been the case for the last 500 years.
As he stated, the mosque will be “absolutely” open to everyone – believers, non-believers, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and anyone who can see the mosaics as they once did.
“Religious minorities in Turkey have equal status as anyone else in the country,” he said, “and they will say, ‘We enjoy religious freedoms as much as any religious community in the country,’ if asked.”