Pope 'Very Pained' by Decision to Turn Istanbul's Hagia Sophia Museum into Mosque

The dome of the Hagia Sophia. (AFP)
The dome of the Hagia Sophia. (AFP)
TT

Pope 'Very Pained' by Decision to Turn Istanbul's Hagia Sophia Museum into Mosque

The dome of the Hagia Sophia. (AFP)
The dome of the Hagia Sophia. (AFP)

Pope Francis said on Sunday he was hurt by Turkey’s decision to make Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum a mosque, the latest religious leader to condemn the move.

“My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained,” he said during his weekly blessing in St. Peter’s Square.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the first prayers would be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24, after declaring the ancient monument was once again a mosque following a court ruling revoking its status as a museum.

The World Council of Churches has called on Erdogan to reverse his decision and Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, called it disappointing.

Erdogan said the nearly 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia, which was once a Christian cathedral, would remain open to Muslims, Christians and foreigners.

He added that Turkey had exercised its sovereign right in converting it to a mosque and would interpret criticism of the move as an attack on its independence.

Greece has condemned the move and UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status and that Turkey’s decision raised questions about the impact on its universal value as a site of importance transcending borders and generations.



Netanyahu Receives Warning from Panel Probing Submarine Purchase 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2024. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2024. (AFP)
TT

Netanyahu Receives Warning from Panel Probing Submarine Purchase 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2024. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2024. (AFP)

An Israeli commission investigating suspected wrongdoing in government purchases of submarines and missile boats from Germany issued a warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

The panel notified Netanyahu that based on evidence gathered thus far, it could ultimately determine that he had used his position as prime minister between 2009 and 2016 to greenlight the purchases without due process.

"By doing so, he (Netanyahu) endangered the security of the state and harmed the state of Israel's foreign relations and economic interests," said the panel in its written decision, made public on Monday.

Netanyahu in response said that the submarines were central to Israel's security "in ensuring its existence against Iran, which is trying to destroy us".

"History will prove that Prime Minister Netanyahu was right on this issue as well and made the right decisions for the security of Israel," the statement from his office said.

The commission, established under the previous government in 2022, said that it will soon publish unclassified parts of the evidence collected during the probe into the deal, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Netanyahu has struggled to salvage his security credentials since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas-led fighters, who killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages to Gaza according to Israeli tallies, the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

In the Israeli assault on Gaza that followed, more than 37,000 people have been killed according to Gaza health authorities.