- (Photo: AP Photo / Manu Fernandez, File)
While the dispute over the proposed Cordoba House near New York City’s Ground Zero has been highly publicized over the past few months, less known is the debate over Spain’s Cordoba Cathedral, which was formerly the Great Mosque of Cordoba.
For quite some time now, Muslim groups have tried to convince leaders of the Cathedral of Cordoba in southern Spain to allow the Catholic church to be used for both Muslim and Christian worship as the site still remains significant for many Muslims.
The Bishop of Cordoba, Demetrio Fernandez, however, says sharing the space with Muslims would be like a man sharing his wife with another man.
"There are things that are shared and others that are not, and the Cathedral of Cordoba is not shared with Muslims," said Fernandez, according to the Spanish-language Europa Press.
Built in the 8th century after the Moorish invasion of Spain, the Cordoba house of worship was transformed from a mosque into a cathedral in 1236 when King Ferdinand III captured the city of Cordoba from the Moors.
Since then, except on rare occasions, Muslim prayer rites have been forbidden inside.
Earlier this year, in April, there was a scuffle between police officers and Muslim tourists from Austria who were trying to pray in what was once the Great Mosque of Cordoba.
Historically, however, relationships between Christians and Muslims in Cordoba have been cordial. The city is known as the City of Three Cultures because Muslims, Jews and Christians lived there in harmony during medieval times.
And today, for many, that still holds true.
Fernandez told the Europa Press back in June that his church reportedly has "a good relationship with Muslims" and wants to collaborate with Muslims in search of "peace, justice and coexistence between peoples."
“But that is one thing," he said. "[It's] another, very different, to want to share the same temple for worship, which is neither possible for Muslims nor for Catholics," he stated.
Despite the bishop’s rejections, efforts to open Cordoba Cathedral for Muslim prayer and worship are ongoing.
Mansur Escudero, who is leading a movement that is pushing for the right of Muslims to pray at the Cordoba Cathedral, said the issue is not only important for Muslims but for humankind.
The Spanish convert to Islam told CNN recently that the sharing of Cordoba Cathedral would be “a beautiful paradigm of tolerance, knowledge, culture.”
“We want it to be a place where anyone – whether Muslim, Christian or Jew – can do his meditation or his internal way of worshiping, or praying or whatever he wants to call it," he added.
Presently, Roman Catholics make up 94 percent of Spain’s 40 million-large population while Muslims make up a little more than two percent. The city of Cordoba is home to around 330,000 people.