Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain has asked that the city’s historic cathedral be referred to as a Catholic church and not as a “mosque,” in reference to its past.
In an October column, Bishop Fernandez wrote, “Cathedral or mosque? Undoubtedly a cathedral. It is the main church of the Diocese of Cordoba, where the chair of the bishop is located, thus the name 'cathedral'.”
The bishop noted that the Cathedral of Cordoba has been a place of Catholic worship for eight centuries. Saint King Ferdinand III took over the city without bloodshed on June 28, 1236, and ordered the temple, which had been built as a mosque, to be consecrated, Bishop Fernandez explained.
“It was saved from destruction because of the successful negotiations between Ferdinand and the Muslim occupiers of the city, who wanted to destroy it rather than turning it over. When the Muslims invaded in 711, it was already a sacred place, as it was the location of the ancient Basilica of Saint Vincent the Martyr.”
The bishop noted that the Muslims destroyed the basilica “so a mosque could be built instead.”
Bishop Fernandez acknowledged the stir caused by his column, telling the Diario de Cordoba that he wrote it because “I knew it would be reported around the world, so that everybody would know that the ancient mosque in Cordoba is today a cathedral. The ones offended are those who think it’s wrong to call it a cathedral.”
“The cathedral has been a cathedral for eight centuries … I don’t mind if it is called a former mosque, but what I don’t want is it to be called just a mosque,” the bishop said, explaining that he does not want to confuse visitors to the city.
“The Catholic Church, and the Bishop of Cordoba, are the first to treat Muslims with respect and friendliness. I am friends with many in the Muslim world,” he noted, adding he supports inter-religious dialogue in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
“People get upset, but this is for the good of Cordoba,” he stated.