Interfaith Dialogue: June 2010 Archives

Córdoba cathedral.jpgEuronews reported today that the bishop of Córdoba, Bishop Demetrio Fernández González made a decision not allow Muslim worship in a former mosque in what is today a Roman Catholic Cathedral. I believe that Bishop Demetrio made a correct and prudent decision here.

But his reasoning seems to lack some precision: it is not the length of time (or how the building came to be Catholic), it's legal title is held by the Church much like Hagia Sophia's title is not held by the Church but by a museum. Christians accept this latter fact and are not arguing for its return. The Cathedral is a Catholic Church and no longer a mosque even though the two religions worship the transcendent God.

In Nostra Aetate and in other statements of the Holy See teach that Muslims worship the God of Abraham. They believe in only one and their intention is to worship that one, transcendent God and is the same God that Jews and Christians worship.

Without getting into theological specifics here, it has be noted that with the Muslim religion there is doubt among theologians and experts about nature of the divine inspiration of the Koran and the place of Muhammad as a true prophet; but the Muslims can't be accused of not worshipping one God and the elements that are true in Islam come from Judaism and Christianity which were present in Muhammad's time. Some would make the claim that the tenets of Islam are similar to a Christian heresy much like Arianism. Orthodox Christians accept that Arians believed in the God who revealed Himself in the Bible however Arianism is rejected because of its denial of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.

A friend raised a question about Jews and Christians viz. as what might be said of Muslims. The difference with Islam that can't be applied to Judaism is that we believe Judaism to be true but incomplete without Jesus; the Torah and the books of the Old Testament is the inspired word of God.

So for these reasons Christians and Muslims cannot worship together or share places of worship because Islam does not have an orthodox faith.

Secular and pluralistic society won't agree on what makes a religion true: talk about truth and heresy makes no sense to people who question the possibility of there being truth, claims of objective truth and revelation. Therefore, I think the matter needs to be addressed in terms of reason.

Catholic worship of God in a consecrated space has a special and essential distinction because the Church is a place of sacrifice and salvation with its focus on the person of Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life; no confusion should happen. The same line of thinking would apply to other religions and for Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. Additionally, it's not merely "opening the door" for the possible expulsion of Catholics again from their mother church but it is improper to allow a religion who does not accept even the basics of Christian faith to worship in a "Catholic space" --and so frequently at odds with Christianity as seen in the murder of Catholic clerics-- and against reason.

Historically, Córdoba is a Roman city but was forcibly converted to Islam in 711 and recaptured by the Spanish King Ferdinand III in 1236. For much of the 525 years that Córdoba was Muslim it was also caliphate, the seat of authority. What is intellectually interesting is that The Great Mosque of Córdoba was the protector of the world's largest library at that time estimated to have between 400,000 and 1 million volumes (I can't account for a discrepancy but the numbers are impressive).

Having visited Córdoba a few years ago I can say that the Islamic influence of former times is still very recognizable and much of the artwork beautiful, even though I can't read Arabic.

Córdoba ceiling.jpg
The article:

"Bishop Demetrio Fernández González of the southern Spanish city of Córdoba, once the seat of Muslim power in Spain, said that he will not permit Islamic worship at the city's cathedral. The cathedral was formerly a mosque, which in turn had been built on the site of a Catholic church.

"Sharing the cathedral with Muslims, Bishop Fernández González said in an interview, "is a euphemism which means: get Catholics out of here ... The answer to the question about sharing the Cathedral is that no, we're not, because this place has been a Catholic church 16 centuries, while Muslims have been four and half centuries."

"If I let in the Muslims pray in the cathedral of Cordoba, it is equivalent to Catholics saying goodbye and good night; it would be irresponsible," he added. "There are things that are shared and others that are not, and the cathedral of Cordoba is not shared with Muslims (...)"

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page is a archive of entries in the Interfaith Dialogue category from June 2010.

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