DTurkey has sharply condemned criticism from Greece over the controversial transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The Athens reaction “once again shows Greek hostility to Islam and Turkey,” said a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday. On Friday, for the first time in decades, Friday’s Muslim prayer was held in the historic domed building in Istanbul, which used to be a Christian church and then a museum.

“The spoiled children of Europe who cannot accept that we bow again deeply in Hagia Sophia have delusions,” spokesman Hami Aksoy said in Ankara. He also strongly condemned the burning of a Turkish flag during protests in Thessaloniki in northern Greece. Aksoy accused the government and the parliament in Athens of inciting the Greek public through “hostile statements”.

“Day of Mourning for All Christianity”

The reason for Ankara’s reaction is, among other things, the statement by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Looking at the Friday prayer held in Istanbul after the Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque, Mitsotakis said on Friday, “This day is not a demonstration of strength, but a demonstration of weakness”. The head of the Orthodox Church in Greece spoke of a “day of mourning for all Christianity”. Archbishop Hieronymos described the transformation as an “unholy act of desecration”.

In addition to thousands of believers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also took part in the Muslim Friday prayer in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The head of state ordered the conversion of the former Byzantine cathedral to a mosque on July 10, after the Turkish Supreme Administrative Court had previously suspended the building’s museum status, which had been in place for decades.

Hagia Sophia was first built as a basilica in the 6th century and for centuries was the main church of the Byzantine Empire and one of the most important churches in Christendom. After Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453, it was converted into a mosque. After the Turkish Republic was founded, it was declared a museum in 1934. The conversion to a museum was a central reform of the modern republic under the leadership of the secular founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.