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Pope Francis “Deeply Pained” Hagia Sophia Becomes a Mosque

Pope Francis said on Sunday that he is “deeply pained” over the decision by Turkey to change the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque.

In a very brief, improvised remark, Francis, speaking from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, noted that the Catholic Church marked Sunday as International Day of the Sea. “And the sea brings me a little far away with my thought: to Istanbul,” the pontiff said. “I am thinking of Hagia Sophia and I am deeply pained.”

Francis said no more but was clearly referring to the move by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to formally convert the monumental building back into a mosque.

The pope, who heads the Roman Catholic church, is adding his voice to strong objections a day earlier by the head of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.

That organization described its “grief and dismay” in noting that Hagia Sophia has been “a place of openness, encounter, and inspiration for people from all nations.”

The council’s membership comprises Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican churches.

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