Pope Francis ‘very distressed’ over Turkey’s Hagia Sophia conversion to mosque

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Muslim prayers would begin on July 24 at Hagia Sophia. Above, visitors inside the UNESCO World Heritage site. (AFP)
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Updated 12 July 2020

Pope Francis ‘very distressed’ over Turkey’s Hagia Sophia conversion to mosque

  • ‘My thoughts go to Istanbul. I’m thinking about Hagia Sophia. I am very distressed’

VACTICAN CITY: Pope Francis said Sunday he was “very distressed” over Turkey’s decision to convert the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.
“My thoughts go to Istanbul. I’m thinking about Hagia Sophia. I am very distressed,” the pope said in the Vatican’s first reaction to a decision that has drawn international criticism.
The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano had on Saturday carried reaction from different countries about Friday’s decision to turn the monument from a museum back into a mosque but without any comment.
A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics say is chipping away at the Muslim-majority country’s secular pillars, announced Friday that Muslim prayers would begin on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the past, he has repeatedly called for the stunning building to be renamed as a mosque and in 2018, he recited a verse from the Qur'an at Hagia Sophia.
Erdogan’s announcement came after a top court canceled a 1934 cabinet decision under modern Turkey’s secularizing founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.


Israeli jets strike Hamas targets in Gaza: military

Updated 03 August 2020

Israeli jets strike Hamas targets in Gaza: military

  • Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes on Hamas facilities in Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip after a “rocket” was fired from the Hamas-controlled enclave toward the Jewish state, its military said Monday.
Israel said Sunday night a “projectile” fired from Gaza had been intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-rocket system.
It was the first to be fired from the Palestinian coastal enclave since the first week of July, and set off sirens, the Israeli army said.
In response, “our fighter jets and & aircraft just struck subterranean Hamas terror facilities in Gaza,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the regional council of Shaar Hanegev, the area where the sirens sounded, said the projectile launched from Gaza had not caused any damage or casualties.
Israel and Islamist movement Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
Despite a truce in recent months, they have periodically exchanged fire, with militants in the strip lobbing rockets into Israel and the Jewish state responding with strikes against targets inside Gaza.