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Hagia Sophia prayers spark indignation

The official conversion on Friday of the historic former Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque was greeted with disdain and indignation by Greece’s political leadership, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying it was not a demonstration of Turkey’s power but “evidence of weakness.” 

The 1,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage monument opened to Muslim worshippers for prayers Friday for the first time in 86 years when modern Turkey’s secular founder Kemal Ataturk made it a museum. Turkish authorities decreed its conversion into a mosque earlier this month.

“Especially for us Greek Orthodox Christians, Hagia Sophia is more a part of our souls today than ever. It is where our hearts beat, turning sorrow into strength, composure and unity,” Mitostakis said.

In a statement, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the conversion cast a dark shadow over Turkey’s reputation.

The leader of main opposition SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras said that the conversion, which also coincided with the anniversary of the the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, “marks another step away by Turkey from the universal values that are the basis for peace and mutual respect in our region.” 

“It essentially undermines interfaith dialogue... no conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, however, can falsify or erase its history and its universal symbolism,” Tsipras said.