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World: Russian church leader says calls to turn Hagia Sophia into mosque threaten Christianity

Museum or mosque? Turkey decides on the future of Hagia Sophia

 Museum or mosque? Turkey decides on the future of Hagia Sophia © Ozan KOSE Aerial view of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on June 28, 2020 The highest court in Turkey decides on Thursday on the conversion of the former basilica into a mosque Hagia Sophia, a decision that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls for at the risk of creating tension with several countries.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Patriarch Kirill, the leader of Russia's Orthodox Church, said on Monday that calls to convert Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque posed a threat to Christianity.

a view of a large building with Hagia Sophia in the background: FILE PHOTO: Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya is seen in Istanbul © Reuters/Murad Sezer FILE PHOTO: Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya is seen in Istanbul

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, an ancient building at the heart of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of Turkey's most visited monuments.

a group of people standing in front of a building: FILE PHOTO: People visit the Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya in Istanbul © Reuters/Murad Sezer FILE PHOTO: People visit the Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya in Istanbul

The proposal has been criticised by several religious and political leaders, including the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch, spirtual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, as well as Greece, France and the United States.

Dearborn mosque: Woodmere Cemetery shutting out Muslims from graves they already purchased

  Dearborn mosque: Woodmere Cemetery shutting out Muslims from graves they already purchased The mosque's attorney suggests the cemetery is trying to renegotiate the contract — and inflate — the price of the grave-spaces. © Rodney Coleman-Robinson, Detroit Free Press Imam Mohamed Mardini speaks at the press conference Friday, June 3, 2020, at the American Moslem Society mosque in Dearborn. The mosque also argues that this is "particularly egregious" because the Muslim community is "extraordinarily tight-knit" and "places a high premium on having loved ones buried in close proximity" to each other and their mosque.

"A threat against Hagia Sophia is a threat to all of Christian civilization, meaning (a threat to) our spirituality and history," Patriarch Kirill said in a statement.

"What could happen to Hagia Sophia will cause deep pain among the Russian people."

The Kremlin said on Monday it hoped Turkish authorities would take into account Hagia Sophia's status as a World Heritage Site.

"This is a beloved world masterpiece for tourists from all countries who visit Turkey, including for tourists from Russia, for whom Hagia Sophia, in additional to its tourism value, has an very deep sacred spiritual value," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

'Unacceptable': Russian church blasts Turkey's Hagia Sophia plan

  'Unacceptable': Russian church blasts Turkey's Hagia Sophia plan A Turkish court last week heard a case aimed at converting the building back into a mosque with a verdict expected soon.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the World Heritage Site recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - a sixth-century building at the heart of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of Turkey's most visited monuments.

Erdogan said last week that criticism over the possible conversion of the monument - known in Turkish as Ayasofya - was an attack on Turkey's sovereignty. Many Turks argue that mosque status would better reflect the identity of Turkey as an overwhelmingly Muslim country, and polls show most Turks support a change

Hagia Sophia was an important place of worship for Orthodox Christians for centuries until Istanbul, then known as Constantinople, fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. They turned the building into a mosque but after the creation of the modern secular Turkish republic under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk it became a museum in 1934.

Many Christians were comfortable with Hagia Sophia's status as a museum because this effectively created a neutral space which respected both the Christian and Muslim heritage of the ancient building, which dates back to the sixth century.

A Turkish court last week heard a case aimed at converting the building back into a mosque and will announce its verdict later this month.

The court case, brought by an NGO for preserving historic monuments, disputes the legality of the 1934 decision.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; additional reporting by Dmitry Antonov; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Turkey will inform UNESCO about Hagia Sophia moves, minister says .
Turkey will inform UNESCO about Hagia Sophia moves, minister saysOn Friday, a Turkish court ruled that the sixth-century building's conversion to a museum was unlawful and President Tayyip Erdogan declared that it is now a mosque. Cavusoglu was speaking in an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber.

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