In a very brief, improvised remark, Francis, speaking from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, noted that the Catholic Church marked Sunday as International Day of the Sea. “And the sea brings me a little far away with my thought: to Istanbul,” the pontiff said. “I am thinking of St. Sophia and I am deeply pained.”
Francis said no more but was clearly referring to the move by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to formally convert the monumental building back into a mosque. The colossal Santa Sophia cathedral was turned into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453. The Turkish secular government in 1934 decided to make it a museum.