First Fri­day prayers at Ha­gia Sophia in 86 years

Fiji Sun - - WORLD NEWS - In­side the Ha­gia Sophia. rosi.doviverata@fi­

Is­tan­bul: Crowds gath­ered in Is­tan­bul as the his­toric Ha­gia Sophia site opened for Fri­day prayers for the first time since Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties ruled it could be con­verted into a mosque. Cler­ics in white robes sang from the Ko­ran. Mo­saics and fres­coes of Je­sus and Mary were draped with cur­tains.

The 1,500-year-old Unesco World Her­itage site be­came a mu­seum in 1934.

This month a Turk­ish court an­nulled its sta­tus, say­ing any use other than as a mosque was “not pos­si­ble legally”.

The de­ci­sion to turn it back into a mosque was crit­i­cised by re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers world­wide. But Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan re­sponded quickly to the rul­ing, vow­ing that the world-fa­mous site would be ready for Fri­day prayers from July 24, and he was seen join­ing wor­ship­pers at around mid­day (09:00 GMT).

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