While Turkey’s president has made moves to close the museum at the former Christian basilica Hagia Sophia and revert it to a mosque, the Patriarch of Constantinople has said the massive site should remain as it is, a place of Christian-Muslim encounter that belongs “to all of humanity.”

The Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said, “the Turkish people have the great responsibility and honor to make the universality of this wonderful monument shine,” given that as a museum it is “the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved to declare the Hagia Sophia a mosque.

On July 2, a Turkish administrative court ruled on whether to revoke the 80-year-old decree that declared the building a museum. A senior Turkish official told Reuters that the ruling, revoking the decree, is likely to be announced July 10.

“This nation has been waiting for 86 years. The court lifted the chain of bans on Hagia Sophia,” pro-government columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote in the Hurriyet newspaper. 

Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the place of Hagia Sophia in his homily during Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Istanbul June 30, Fides news agency reports.

Hagia Sophia belongs “belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity,” he said.

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