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Turkey's Hagia Sophia holds first Friday prayers since conversion back to mosque

July 24, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

This aerial picture taken on June 28, 2020 in Istanbul shows Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul. - Turkey's top court is due on July 2, 2020 to deliver a critical verdict on the status of Istanbul's emblematic landmark church-turned-mosque-turned museum Hagia Sophia, a ruling which could inflame tensions mainly with neighboring Greece. The sixth-century edifice -- a magnet for tourists worldwide with its stunning architecture -- has been serving as a secular museum since the 1930s which makes it open to believers of all faiths. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

Istanbul's historic Hagia Sophia has reopened for Friday prayers for the first time since a decision was made to turn it back into a mosque after more than 80 years as a museum.

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN)Istanbul's historic Hagia Sophia has reopened for Friday prayers for the first time since a decision was made to turn it back into a mosque after more than 80 years as a museum.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the sixth century building's conversion back to a mosque earlier this month after a court annulled the 1934 presidential decree that made it a museum.

The decision, involving one of the city's most important landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been criticized by international religious and political leaders, with UN cultural agency UNESCO among those voicing concern.

The historic site then became a museum in 1935 as part of a decree by modern Turkey's secularist founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

UNESCO said earlier this month that it "deeply regrets" Turkey's decision and that the choice was made without the organization receiving prior notification.

Erdogan used a televised speech on July 10 to urge people to respect the decision and said there would no longer be entrance fees since its status as a museum had changed.

As the world's common heritage, Hagia Sophia with its new status will keep on embracing everyone in a more sincere way," he said.

But the way Hagia Sophia will be used falls under Turkey's sovereign rights.

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