The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday condemned statements by Greek officials and a flag-burning protest in Greece after the first Islamic prayers in nine decades were held at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.
“Greece showed once again its enmity towards Islam and Turkey with the excuse of reacting to Hagia Sophia Mosque being opened to prayers,” ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.
Turkey condemns Greek reaction to Hagia Sophia prayers
Greek criticism of the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque after decades as a museum has been scathing, underlining tense ties between Greece and Turkey. Church bells tolled in mourning across Greece on Friday as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan joined prayers at the building.
In a message marking Greece’s 46th anniversary of the restoration of democracy, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called Turkey a “troublemaker”, and the conversion an “affront to the civilisation of the 21st century”.
Friday’s ceremony sealed Erdogan’s ambition to restore Muslim worship at the ancient site, which most Greeks consider as central to their Orthodox Christian religion.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it strongly condemned hostile statements by the Greek government and parliament members to stir up the public, and the burning of a Turkish flag in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Protesters in Greece burn Turkish flags as they decry Hagia Sophia's reconversion to mosque pic.twitter.com/aMFgOofipU
— RT (@RT_com) July 25, 2020
Hagia Sophia was opened to prayer as a mosque in line with the will of the Turkish people and belonged to Turkey like all cultural assets in the country, it added.
Orthodox church in Greece dubs the prayers ‘a day of mourning’
With prayers, flags in half-mast and church bells tolls in mourning, Greeks react to the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. As the Muslim prayer slowly started in Istanbul Friday noon, clerics and common people gathered in churches across Greece to pray on this ‘day of mourning’ that has deeply hurt the Greek Orthodoxy.
Describing the 24. July a “day of mourning” for the Greek Orthodoxy and the Greeks across the world, Ieroymos called on people to attend the customary Good Friday liturgy and hymns at the Athens Cathedral at 8:00 p.m. on Friday.
He invited everyone to join in the prayers and chant the Akathistos Ymnos for aid and support to the nation.
Archbishop Ieroymos was obviously disappointed of the reaction by the international community that was rather lukewarm.
“I am deeply grieved that the powerful of this world, at least the majority of them, are hiding behind their finger, or rather behind their own geopolitical and geostrategic designs,” the Archbishop said.
Greece and Turkey disagree on a range of issues airspace to maritime zones and ethnically split Cyprus. This week they also exchanged barbs over the delimitation of their continental shelves in the easte fromrn Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich in natural resources.
Muslim world rejoices over prayers held in Hagia Sophia
Major media outlets in Pakistan and Bangladesh have unequivocally conveyed the significance of the reopening of Turkey’s iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque for worship for the first time in 86 years with Friday prayers, dubbing it as a “landmark moment.”
Over a dozen top TV channels, including state-run Pakistan Television, cut their routine bulletins, and aired wall-to-wall coverage of the grand event.
They ensured live transmission from different corners of the Mosque, highlighting its historical past, and importance for the Muslims around the world.
As the day progressed, the state-owned broadcaster and all news channels opened their bulletins with headlines “Hagia Sophia is preparing to reopen today after 86 years”, and “First prayer in Hagia Sophia today after 86 years.”
Before you criticize Turkey for reopening Hagia Sophia as a mosque again, tell us how Greece ruined, or used for purposes, which completely disregard their history.
Some mosques were converted into churches, while others were used as bars or movie theaters for “adult” films! https://t.co/0jhXU94X8s
— E 🇹🇷🇦🇿 (@sisoyturca) July 25, 2020
“Turkey’s historic Hagia Sophia Mosque reopens after 86 years” was the headline of the country’s largest private broadcaster Geo News bulletin flanked by live scenes from the main prayer hall, and outside.
The broadcaster also highlighted the presence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sitting in the front row, and other political, and religious personalities.
The iconic monument served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly 500 years – and most recently as a museum for 86 years.
One of the most visited historic buildings in Turkey by domestic and international tourists, in 1985, during its time as a museum, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
On July 10, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 86-year hiatus.
In the new era for Hagia Sophia, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate will oversee religious services at the mosque, while the Culture and Tourism Ministry will supervise restoration and conservation work.
GVS News Desk with additional information from other sources