Pope Francis has said he’s “pained” by Turkey’s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, the BBC reports.
Speaking at a service in the Vatican, the Roman Catholic leader added that his “thoughts go to Istanbul”.
Hagia Sophia was built as a Christian cathedral nearly 1,500 years ago and turned into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of 1453.
The Unesco World Heritage Site became a museum in 1934 under Turkish Republic founding father Ataturk.
But earlier this week a Turkish court annulled the site’s museum status, saying its use as anything other than a mosque was “not possible legally”.
Pope Francis confined himself to a few words on the issue: “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the first Muslim prayers would be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24.