After signing the decree to turn the Hagia Sophia from a historical museum to a mosque, Prime Minister of Turkey Erdoğan invited Pope Francis to the inauguration on the 24th of July.
Presidential spokesman for Turkey Ibrahim Kalin told CNN International everyone was invited to see the inauguration of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, adding that even Pope Francis was invited.
Kalin said the mosaics inside the long-time basilica are “part of our cultural heritage,” and the Hagia Sophia would be “absolutely” open to everyone.
“We are making some arrangements to make sure that during Muslim prayer times, they will be covered but not touched. The main point here is that there is no damage to these mosaics, depictions, the historical texture, and architecture of the building. Reactions to the conversion of Hagia Sophia are based on old views and prejudices – there is religious freedom in Turkey. Religious minorities would say ‘we enjoy religious freedoms as much as any religious community in the country’ if they are asked.”
So far, the only public comments from Pope Francis on the Hagia Sophia becoming a mosque came during his Sunday address on July 13th, when he said “when I think of Hagia Sophia, I am very saddened.”
The Holy See (as of July 22nd @ 5PM) has not yet responded to the invitation.