After nearly 100 years as a museum, one-time cathedral will again be a place of worship for Islam.
After praying the midday Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis responded briefly to Turkey’s recent decision to turn the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.
After mentioning Sea Sunday celebrated on the second Sunday of July, the Holy Father said that speaking about the ocean “brought his thoughts a little farther on: to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sofia, and I’m very grieved” (the words he used in Italian were molto addolorato.)
The small crowd of pilgrims gathered in the Square applauded the pope’s words.
After some weeks of discussion, Turkey ruled Friday that the Hagia Sophia would become a mosque again. It has been open as a museum since 1935.
The structure was built under the Emperor Justinian in the mid 500s, and was the main cathedral for the Byzantine Empire. When Constantinople (now Istanbul) was captured in 1453 by the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque.
Its Greek name translates as Holy Wisdom, referring to the Wisdom of God. Turks today refer to it as Ayasofya.