The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios has expressed grief over plans by Turkey to convert the 6th-century former Orthodox Christian cathedral of Hagia Sophia into a mosque in comments he made to Turkish columnist Asli Aydintasbas for the Washington Post.
“What can I say as a Christian clergyman and the Greek patriarch in Istanbul? Instead of uniting, a 1,500-year-old heritage is dividing us. I am saddened and shaken,” said Vatholomaios, who is spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
A Unesco world heritage site, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman Turks after the fall of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) in 1453.
It was turned into a museum in 1935 under modern Turkey's secular founder Kemal Ataturk.