Holy See Says That a Church Shouldn't Be Used by Muslims

Addresses Question Posed by Muslims in Spain

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Is it permissible to allow Muslims to worship in a Catholic church?

The answer is no, according to Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The question, asked by a Spanish Muslim, had sparked a national debate in that country, as followers of Islam in Spain wish to be able to worship in the cathedral of Cordoba, a former mosque.

In statements to AsiaNews, Archbishop Fitzgerald clarified that no official request has been made to the Holy See. It was simply communicated in a personal capacity in March by a Spanish Muslim during a dialogue meeting of the pontifical council, he said.

«A general reflection is needed here,» Archbishop Fitzgerald said. «As there are monumental buildings in Cordoba, there are also others around the world which currently have a use different from that of the original — like the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, now an Islamic museum, despite pressure put on by some Muslims to use it again as a mosque.»

«The Holy Father visited the Umayad Mosque in Damascus, praying in front of the tomb of St. John the Baptist,» the archbishop recalled. However, the Pope «did not ask to celebrate Mass in the mosque.»

«It is difficult to have Christians and Muslims mixing and sharing a common life,» Archbishop Fitzgerald said. «The shared use of a building by various churches is problematic. There are spaces dedicated to this purpose, for example, in airports. But they are not churches or mosques. They are interfaith spaces, capable of being used by Jews, Christians, Muslims and persons of other faiths alike.»

He continued: «But this is based on a type of agreement to allow for their shared use. Yet this is not the reality in Cordoba, where the building belongs to a specific community.»

«We want to live in peace with persons of other religions,» Archbishop Fitzgerald said. «However, we don’t want to be pushed, manipulated and go against the very rules of our faith.»

«If it is a Catholic chapel with the Blessed Sacrament inside,» he said, «it should not be used for prayer services of another religious tradition.»

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