Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invited the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis to visit Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom), Anadolou Agency reported.
According to Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for the Turkish presidency, Turkey has invited everyone to the mosque, including Pope Francis.
Last week, Pope Francis condemned Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia and I am very saddened,” he said.
“We are making some arrangements to ensure that during Muslim prayers, the mosaics will be covered but not touched,” Kalin told CNN.
“The main point here is that there is no damage to these mosaics, depictions, the historical texture, and architecture of the building,” he added
The Turkish bureaucrat said that the Hagia Sophia mosque will be open to believers or non-believers of any religion- Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, to everyone.
“Reactions to the conversion of Hagia Sophia are based on old views and prejudices – there is religious freedom in Turkey,” Kalin emphasised.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed the decree on July 10, allowing the operation of Hagia Sophia as a “functioning mosque”, according to which the country’s General Directorate of Religious Affairs would take control of the building.
Erdoğan also announced that Hagia Sophia mosque will be open for prayer on July 24.
The first muslim prayer will be conducted with a limited number of people, including Erdoğan due to coronavirus pandemic.
Over the weekend, Erdoğan visited Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) and inspected the ongoing preparations.