Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain has reaffirmed the Catholic identity of the historic Cathedral of Cordoba, which is world renowned as a former mosque.
“The cathedral is an emblematic temple and a monument unique in the world. The thousands of tourists who visit Cordoba come to see this unique temple that was built during the Muslim period and was a mosque, and that for eight centuries has been a cathedral. Therefore it is a cathedral, a former mosque,” the bishop said during an interview with Punto Radio Cordoba.
Bishop Fernandez made his comments as he marked his first year as Bishop of Cordoba.
He then stressed that the cathedral is slowly recovering its “leading role as the mother church,” thanks to the large number of visits it receives and the liturgical celebrations that provide the faithful “a place to worship and to enjoy the beauty that has been created for God.”
Over the centuries the cathedral has been coveted by many, and therefore it “makes sense that the bishops, and not only me but also my predecessors, city officials and the Church, repeat that it is a Catholic temple and that it has been maintained thanks to Catholics.
“Thanks to eight centuries of support it still stands and is more beautiful now than when it was first built,” he said.
Bishop Fernandez also said that during his first year as head of the diocese, he has found the Church in Cordoba to be “dynamic.”
“I have found there to be a very strong tradition, an abundance of volunteers even in the smallest of parishes, who give of their time in catechesis, the liturgy, etc., and who are very happy to be members of the Church,” he said.
“The first year is about settling it, meeting others and introducing oneself. Entrusted with a task that I like and enjoy, I have encountered great collaborators and much ecclesial life. It is nice to work here and my experience has been highly positive,” the bishop stated.
Cathedral or mosque?
Last October, Bishop Fernandez published an article in which he said the Cathedral of Cordoba should be referred to as a Catholic temple and not as a “mosque,” in allusion to its past.
“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',” he wrote.
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.
“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 turn 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.”
“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,” he stated.