US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and said Istanbul’s celebrated former cathedral should remain open to all.
“We urge the government of Turkey to continue to maintain the Hagia Sophia as a museum, as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey, and to ensure it remains accessible to all,” Pompeo said.
On Tuesday, the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians warned that converting Istanbul’s sixth century Hagia Sophia back into a mosque would sow division.
“The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will disappoint millions of Christians around the world,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. He is based in Istanbul.