Azerbaijan, Baku, Aug. 28 / Trend R.Hafizoglu /
Conditions created by the authorities for religious minorities, should also be created for the Muslims, and Aya Sofia ( also Haghia Sophia ) must regain the status of mosque, Turkish Grand Unity Party Chairman Yalcin Topcu said.
"The authorities must protect the rights of Muslims, constituting 99 percent of the total population of Turkey. They must restore the status of mosque to Aya Sofia, as they opened Sumela and Akdamar churches for praying," Topcu told Trend.
Turkish media reported that the Sumela church, which is considered sacred by the orthodox Christians of the country, was opened for religious ceremonies for the first time in 90 years. The Turkish Christians and about 1,500 pilgrims from Greece and Russia took part in the opening of the monastery of the 16th century.
The Sabah newspaper reported that the country allowed to conduct religious ceremonies in the Akdamar church in the Van city.
Turkey, which has a thousand-year history of statehood, is forced to defend the rights of religious minorities, Topcu said.
"I regard restoration of the historic churches Sumela and others as right step, but, on the other hand, the country should allow to pray in Aya Sofia, the opening of which the Turkish Muslims has been waiting for 76 years," Topcu said.
Following the conquest of Constantinople in the middle of the 15th century, Sultan Mehmet II renamed the city's largest temple - the church of Sacred Sophia in Aya Sofia and the first Friday prayer was performed here. In 1934, the mosque of Aya Sofia was deprived of its religious status and turned into a museum.
The authorities and relevant agencies were demanded to restore the status of mosque to Aya Sofia, Topcu said.
"I believe the Muslims of the country have the right to make festive prayer in the Aya Sofia mosque at least once a year (during Ramadan and Gurban Holiday)," Topcu said.
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