The Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily, had reported factually on the developments on Saturday, quoting the main international reactions, but without commenting.
A major architectural work built in the VIth Century by the Byzantines, who crowned their emperors there, Saint Sophia is classified as a World Heritage Site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It is one of Istanbul’s main cultural attractions, attracting some 3.8 million visitors in 2019.
Converted into a mosque after the Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453, the cathedral was made into a museum in 1934 by the head of the young Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal, who wanted to offer it to humanity.
Many countries, particularly Russia and Greece, which keep close tabs on the fate of the Byzantine heritage in Turkey, as well as the United States and France, had warned Ankara against transforming Saint Sophia into a mosque, something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who comes from a conservative Islamic party, has advocated for years.