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06/17/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Sahak Mashalian recently endorsed the idea of restoring the Hagia Sophia’s status as a place of worship. Over the past few weeks, President Erdogan has repeatedly brought this idea to the country’s attention, hoping to reopen the museum as a mosque. It is common for the president to introduce this topic into the country’s dialogue as a distraction for broader crises faced by society.

Patriarch Mashalian says that the Hagia Sophia is meant to be a place of worship, not a museum. He believes that prayers better suit the spirit of the building rather than tourists taking pictures. The patriarch noted that the cathedral is large enough to house both Christian and Muslim worship, and that reopening the Hagia Sophia for both services could brand the cathedral as a symbol of peace in Turkey. His comments are also viewed controversially within the Armenian church and broader Christian community.

The Hagia Sophia’s status has been a common topic in Turkey since the recent anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. This was celebrated with Islamic prayers and readings inside the cathedral, which was turned into a mosque following the conquest and later transformed into a museum with the creation of modern Turkey. It is anticipated that the Turkish court will decide on July 2nd whether the site can be reopened as a mosque.

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