Muslims appeal for prayers in Spain’s Cordoba Cathedral

A potential opening for the kind of universalism that could go a long way towards chilling the planet out—and taking the wind out of al-Qaeda’s Iberian franchise. But the local Catholic hierarchy isn’t going for it. Maybe the Pope will exercise better judgement? From the Italian news agency AKI, Dec. 28:

The Bishop of the southern city of Cordoba, Juan Jose Asenjo, has turned down a request from its Muslim community to be allowed to pray with Christians in its cathedral – a former mosque. Asenjo was quoted as saying the joint use of consecrated places of worship would “generate confusion” and lead to “religious indifference”.

Asenjo also said that the Bishopric had valid legal documents entitling the Catholic Church to sole use of the building. Moreover, while Catholics are able to live in peace with other faiths, and the Cordoba Diocese wants to maintain its good relations with local Muslims, Cordoba’s Christian roots should be respected, Asenjo argued.

Spain’s Islamic Board, which represents a community of some 800,000 in a traditional Catholic country of 44 million, argued in a letter to Pope Benedict XVI that such a move in Cordoba could serve to “awaken the conscience” of followers of both faiths and help bury past confrontations.

The organisation stated that they were not aiming at re-establishing the Cordoba Mosque – now a Unesco world heritage site – nor reviving Andalusia, the pre-Christian Muslim civilisation of Spain, of which Cordoba was the capital. Rather, the demand should be seen as a move to encourage tolerance and reconciliation, the Islamic Board argued.

“What we wanted was not to take over that holy place, but to create in it, together with you and other faiths, an ecumenical space unique in the world which would have been of great significance in bringing peace to humanity,” said its letter to the pontiff.

The Cordoba mosque was turned into a Catholic cathedral in the 13th Century after the city was conquered by King Ferdinand III in the war to drive the North African Moors from the Iberian peninsula.

See our last posts on Spain, the Vatican and the struggle within Islam.

  1. Daniel Pipes makes it a tit-for-tat
    From his blog:

    The Muslim demand is all very reasonable – but only if Muslims permit reciprocal rights to Christians. For example, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is built over a Byzantine church and to this day contains a shrine said to contain the head of John the Baptist; Christians should be granted leave to pray there. Or the grandest church of Byzantium, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, for centuries a mosque and now a museum – it too should be made available for Christian services. The Vatican has made reciprocity the cornerstone of its relations with Muslims, and this looks like a simple place to start implementing that policy.