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Spanish government doubts Cordoba's Mosque-Cathedral belongs to Church

The relationship between Church and State has always been a thorny issue and the case of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is one of the most delicate topics in Spain.

The current government accuses the dioceses of having claimed ownership of the temple when it was supposedly state-owned. The Church would only be able to manage the Mosque-Cathedral but never to declare itself the owner.

The diocese defends the ownership of the cathedral, because in the 13th century the king donated it to them. The bishop of Cordoba warns that, in reality, there is much more at stake: the relationship with the Islamic world.

Bishop of Cordoba (Spain)
“The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba's property title is in the name of the Church, after King Ferdinand III himself donated it. Furthermore, there is this document in the Simancas archives that details the donation of the cathedral to the bishop and Church of Cordoba. Once a Basilica, King Ferdinand III order it to be consecrated as a Cathedral.” “It is a symbol of the relationship between Islam and Christianity. There are those who are interested in making it not only a symbol of that relationship, but also a symbol of conflict.”

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba has a complex history. It began as a Christian basilica until the arrival of Muslims in Spain in the eighth century. A mosque was built over it. With the passing of the centuries, it was extended until it reached its maximum splendor with Almanzor in the 10th century. At that time, it was only surpassed by Mecca.

In the 13th century, Ferdinand III reconquered the city and donated the majestic building to the Church, who erected it again as a Christian temple. 

Now, Muslim groups demand “shared prayer” so that both Christians and Muslims can use the temple. However, the bishop of Cordoba is not convinced that it is the right formula. He recalls that there are Catholic temples in the Muslim world that are in a very different situation.

Bishop of Cordoba (Spain)
“This same Cordoba situation occurs only in Santa Sofia: that a precious basilica is now a museum and has once been and can become again a mosque. Or in Famagusta, in Cyprus, also a great Gothic cathedral has been converted into a mosque, by facts of history and conquest.”

Controversies such as the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba can upset the relationship between Christianity and Islam. 

In recent decades, the dialogue between the two has undergone certain improvements. Much of this is thanks to meetings such as that of Pope Francis and the Imam of Al-Azhar, the historic Muslim university where future Sunni imams are formed. Hopefully, Pope Francis' trip to Morocco in March 2019 can continue to foster a cordial atmosphere.