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Erdogan rebuffs criticism over Hagia Sophia conversion to mosque

Istanbul - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday rejected worldwide condemnation over Turkey's decision to convert the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, saying it represented his country's will to use its "sovereign rights".

Turkey turns Hagia Sophia back into a mosque

Istanbul - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that the Hagia Sophia, one of the architectural wonders of the world, would be reopened for Muslim worship as a mosque, sparking fury in the Christian community and neighbouring Greece.

UNESCO warns Turkey against Hagia Sophia mosque conversion

Paris - The UN's cultural agency UNESCO warned Turkey on Friday against converting the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul into a mosque, urging dialogue before any decision is taken.

Polish Church faces reckoning over sex abuse

Warsaw - Jakub Pankowiak's story of sexual abuse by a local priest is shaking up Poland's Catholic hierarchy, amplifying calls for full transparency after decades of cover-ups in the former communist country.

Turkey's Erdogan rejects criticism over Hagia Sophia landmark

Istanbul - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday rejected criticism over his willingness to convert Istanbul's famed Hagia Sophia landmark into a mosque despite international and domestic concern.

Museum or mosque? Top Turkey court to rule on Hagia Sophia

Istanbul - Turkey's top court convened Thursday to consider whether Istanbul's emblematic landmark and former church Hagia Sophia can be redesignated as a mosque, a ruling which could inflame tensions with the West.

Pompeo urges Turkey not to convert Hagia Sophia into mosque

Washington - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and said Istanbul's celebrated former cathedral should remain open to all.

Curtailed hajj compounds Saudi economic woes

Apo - Vacant religious sites. Abandoned pilgrim tents. Lifeless hotels. A stunning emptiness -- and fears of economic ruin -- haunt the usually bustling city of Mecca after Saudi authorities curtailed the hajj pilgrimage over coronavirus.

Saudi scales down hajj, bars pilgrims from abroad

Apo - Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it will allow a drastically scaled-back hajj pilgrimage for around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom, as it battles a coronavirus surge.

Saudi to allow around 1,000 pilgrims to perform hajj: minister

Apo - Saudi Arabia will allow around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform the hajj this year, a minister said Tuesday, after it announced the ritual would be scaled back due to coronavirus.

Muslims disappointed but accepting as Saudi scales back hajj

Kuala Lumpur - Muslims expressed disappointment Tuesday at Saudi Arabia's decision to scale back this year's hajj pilgrimage, but many accepted it was necessary as the kingdom battles a major coronavirus outbreak.

Putin hails Russian war dead at giant new army cathedral

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin paid homage to Russia's World War II dead on Monday as he visited an enormous new Orthodox cathedral built to honour the military.

Former pope Benedict in Germany to visit ailing brother

Berlin - Former pope Benedict XVI travelled from the Vatican to Germany on Thursday to visit his sick brother, officials said, in his first trip out of Italy since his shock resignation in 2013.

S.Africans reluctant to return to places of worship despite lockdown easing

Johanesburg - White plastic chairs are sprayed down with sanitiser and a smartly dressed cleaner says a prayer while dusting before a first service in her church in more than nine weeks.

Assyrian Christians fear for their future in Turkey

Apo - Inside the sixth century church in southeastern Turkey, dozens of Assyrian Christian women, men and children in their Sunday best attend a service, one of only a few held in their ancient homeland.

Vatican investigates Polish bishop for abuse cover-up

Warsaw - The Vatican has given the go-ahead for an investigation into a Polish bishop suspected of covering up sexual abuse of children by clergy -- a subject that has long remained taboo in predominantly Catholic Poland.

Indonesia pulls out of annual Mecca pilgrimage over virus fears

Jakarta - Indonesia is pulling out of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca over coronavirus fears, the religious affairs ministry said Tuesday, removing the largest contingent of worshippers.

Masks and no ablution: Saudis flock to reopened mosques

Apo - Mask-clad worshippers flocked to Saudi mosques that reopened nationwide Sunday -- except in the holy city of Mecca –- over two months after congregational prayers were halted under a coronavirus-triggered lockdown.

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity reopens

Bethlehem - Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born, reopened on Tuesday more than two months after closing in the face of the coronavirus.

Iran reopens key shrines after two-month virus closure

Tehran - Iran on Monday reopened major Shiite shrines across the Islamic republic, more than two months after they were closed, as it reported its lowest deaths from coronavirus since March.

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre to reopen Sunday

Jerusalem - Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre will reopen Sunday after a two-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian authorities in the holy city said.

Ramadan rule-breakers: Indonesians try to beat Eid exodus ban

Jakarta - Indonesians are turning to smugglers and bogus travel documents to get around bans on an annual end-of-Ramadan exodus that could send coronavirus cases skyrocketing in the world's biggest Muslim majority nation.

Syrians turn to flea markets for frugal Eid al-Fitr

Damascus - In a Damascus flea market, Sham Alloush rummaged through a pile of clothes for something nice to wear for Eid al-Fitr that wasn't too expensive.

Canadian preacher arrested in Myanmar for breaking coronavirus ban

Yangon - Myanmar police arrested a Canadian pastor Wednesday for allegedly holding a service in defiance of a coronavirus ban on mass gatherings -- after which he and dozens of his followers and their families became infected.

Young Tunisians eat in secret despite Ramadan and lockdown

Nicosia - Hiding snacks under their beds or behind piles of clothes, young Tunisians are finding ways to subvert the Ramadan fast -- despite being locked down with their Muslim conservative parents.

Poles mark century since birth of Pope John Paul II

Warsaw - Poles on Monday set aside deep political divisions to mark a century since the birth of the late Pope John Paul II, the first and only pontiff from Poland whose election changed the course of history.

Tibetan exile govt urges China to reveal whereabouts of Panchen Lama

New Delhi - Tibet's parliament-in-exile on Sunday called for Beijing to confirm the "well-being and whereabouts" of the Panchen Lama, the second-most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism's largest school, a quarter of a century after he disappeared.

Bosnian protests at Mass for Croatia's pro-Nazi WWII regime

Sarajevo - Thousands marched in Bosnia on Saturday to protest against a Mass being held to honour Croatia's Nazi collaborators and civilians killed after World War II.

Belgian drinkers' faith rewarded as monks get beer out

Westvleteren - Belgium is only cautiously beginning to emerge from its coronavirus lockdown and its bars and restaurants won't open until next month at least.

US presses China on Panchen Lama 25 years after disappearance

Washington - The United States on Thursday renewed calls on China to free the Tibetan identified 25 years earlier as the Panchen Lama and warned Beijing not to see the episode as a model for handling the Dalai Lama's succession.
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