Christian Cathedral Hagia Sophia Officially Turned into Mosque, Welcomes Worshippers

( The Hagia Sophia, an ancient Christian cathedral located in Istanbul, Turkey, has been officially converted into a mosque after Turkish judges ruled that it should no longer serve as a museum. Despite being a world heritage site, the ancient building was opened up on Friday for Islamic prayers for the first time since the Turkish authorities said it will no longer be recognized as a Christian cathedral.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said that Muslims across the world are “excited” and that “everyone wants to be at the opening.” Istanbul, with its 18 million residents, celebrated widely on the same day. Many people slept overnight in line, waiting to be among the first people to enter it after it was officially designated as a mosque. On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also unveiled a plaque outside the building which said that the building would be re-purposed into a mosque.

President Erdogan asserted Turkey’s “historical and sovereign right” to transform the Christian cathedral, which has for decades served as one of the most significant museums in the world, into a site for Muslims only.

The Hagia Sophia was originally built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral more than 1,500 years ago. When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, as Istanbul was known then, it was briefly converted into a mosque. However, in 1934 the moderate and secular Turkish government turned the building into a museum where visitors from all over the world could learn about the building’s Christian origins.

Turkey has become decidedly less secular than then, and the decision to turn the cathedral into a mosque has been widely expected for some time.

President Erdogan, who was elected as Prime Minister in 2003 and later elected President in 2014, has been suffering the polls lately – like a result of his many years in power. The cathedral has been increasingly used by the politician to regain support from Muslims in his country. The decision has been popular among the Muslim citizens of Turkey but has been widely criticized by leaders all over the world.

Hours before the cathedral was opened as a mosque, Greek Orthodox Church leaders and Catholic bishops from all over the world declared a day of “morning and manifest grief.”

What a huge loss for the world.