Greece Says Turkey Trying to Change Aghia Sophia's Status

Αssociated Press

A view of a wall set in front of Istanbul s 6th-century Hagia Sophia, the main cathedral of the Byzantine Empire which was converted into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest of the city, then known as Constantinople, in 1453, that was to be used as a set for the celebrations to mark the 567th anniversary of the conquest in Istanbul, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

After frequent reports it could be turned into a mosque, Greece's Foreign Ministry said Turkey is making a move to change the designation of the centuries-old Aghia Sophia Orthodox Church and denounced readings there from the Koran.

That came on the May 29 anniversary of the 1453 fall of Constantinople – which the rest of the world calls Istanbul – a ceremony the Greek ministry called an “unacceptable attempt to alter the site’s designation as monument” and as an “affront to the religious sentiment of Christians throughout the world.

“(The) reading of passages from the Quran inside Hagia Sophia, a global monument protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site that has functioned as a museum since 1935, is not only an unacceptable attempt to alter the site’s designation as monument, but also an affront to the religious sentiment of Christians throughout the world,” the ministry statement also said.

“This action is an insult to the international community and once again exposes Turkey, which has an obligation to respect both the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and UNESCO, of which it is a member,” it said.

“We once again call on Turkey to respect its international obligations and stop putting domestic expediencies ahead of its very privileged role as guardian of a monument as important as Hagia Sophia, which belongs to all of humanity,” the statement added.

Built in the 6th Century, Aghia Sophia was the main seat of the Greek Orthodox Churh until converted into a mosque and then a museum in 1935, and now is one of the world's most popular tourist attractions.