July 2020: Pope Francis saddened by the decision on Hagia Sophia

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Georg Ratzinger died on July 1 in Regensburg, and Benedict XVI's secretary went there to attend the funeral. Pope Francis wrote a condolence letter to his predecessor. 

In Rome, as every July, the pope reduced his audiences to the Sunday Angelus. From there he launched his public messages of support for the global ceasefire proposed by the UN Secretary General.

“I hope that this decision is implemented effectively and quickly.”

July 8 marked the seventh anniversary of his first trip as pope. He had gone to Lampedusa. The pandemic prevented Pope Francis from leaving the Vatican again. Instead, he celebrated a Mass for migrants at his residence in Casa Santa Marta. 

“I remember that day seven years ago, in the south of Europe, on that island. Some (migrants) told me their stories, how much they had suffered to get there.”

The month of July was a politically intense period. Turkey tensed its ties with the Christian world by unilaterally decreeing that Hagia Sophia should become a mosque again. 

The news was a painful shock for Catholics and Orthodox Christians alike. Hagia Sophia had been converted into a museum in the first half of the 20th century precisely to avoid disputes between Muslims and Christians.

The pope did not ignore Erdogan's gesture, and at an Angelus, he could not contain his pain.

“I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened.”

On the other hand, the Holy See had focused its political efforts elsewhere in the Middle East. Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin summoned U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to express the Vatican's concern about Israel's project to annex Palestinian territories.

From the pastoral point of view, the Vatican also published two guiding documents: one to support the pastoral care of parishes, and another to guide bishops on what steps to take when faced with possible cases of sexual abuse in their dioceses. 

Meanwhile, Italy was struggling to return to normality. The lack of tourists meant serious losses for museums such as those in the Vatican. In June, the museum reopened its doors, but after a month, attendance was very low. It was the equivalent of two and a half days of the pre-Covid period. 

Javier Romero

Translation: CC

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