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An aerial view of Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Directorate of Communications/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Thousands of worshippers prayed together amid the coronavirus pandemic at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on Friday for the first time since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the building would transition from museum to mosque, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Orthodox Christian churches in Greece flew their flags at half-staff and tolled bells in protest because the roughly 1,500-year-old building was the largest church in the Christian world for close to a millennium.

What they're saying: While devout Muslim supporters were reportedly happy with the transformation, many Christian leaders cautioned that the change could be "religiously divisive," the Post writes.

  • The director-general of UNESCO criticized the decision earlier in July, saying she "deeply regrets" the status shift of Hagia Sophia.
  • The Trump administration also said it was “disappointed” by the move, per the Post.
A child holding a Turkish flag inside Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Protesters outside the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, Greece, on July 24. Photo: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP via Getty Images
People praying outside Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Onur Dogman/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Inside Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images

Go deeper

Updated Nov 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

In photos: Trump and Biden make final push for voters on election eve

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and President Trump at his campaign event in Traverse City, Michigan, on Nov. 2.

President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's contrasting styles and attitudes toward the coronavirus pandemic were starkly evident on their final day of campaigning before the election.

The big picture: Trump held packed rallies as he criss-crossed states, with events in North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on Monday. Biden's campaign focused on Ohio and Pennsylvania, seen as crucial to the election. His campaigning has been notable for precautions against COVID-19, such as holding drive-in rallies.

1 hour ago - Health

U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines

A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Ruleville, Mississippi. Photo: Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. is now vaccinating an average of 2 million people a day, up from 1.3 million in early February.

Why it matters: That puts us on track to hit President Biden's goal of 100 million doses a month ahead of schedule.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing the Senate clerk to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, a procedural move that will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate.