Turkish official wants Hagia Sophia to become mosque; Greece reacts sharply
November 21, 2013
Bülent Arinç, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said that the famed Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul should again become a mosque – prompting a sharp reaction from Greece’s foreign ministry.
Dedicated in 537, Hagia Sophia served as the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople until 1453, when the city fell to Ottoman Turks. It then served as a mosque until 1935, when the secularizing Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made it a museum.
“Recurrent statements made by high ranking Turkish officials about converting Byzantine Christian churches into mosques are offending the religious feeling of millions of Christians,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Turkish government replied that it had “nothing to learn” from Greece about religious freedom, Agence France-Presse reported. “Unfavorable treatment of Ottoman-era cultural artifacts and places of worship by Greece is well known by all,” the government said in a statement.
99.8% of Turkey’s 80 million residents are Muslim.
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