Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A certain Baptist church’s choice of name

The letter mentioned in the previous post requested that Bethesda Cathedral (a Baptist church) change its name, or at least remove the word “cathedral” since there no bishop has his throne there.

Bethesda Cathedral Wallpaper

There are currently two cathedrals in Singapore (excluding the one mentioned earlier) – St. Andrew’s Cathedral (the most recognised church building in this nation; see right), where Anglican bishop Dr. John Chew has his throne, and the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which is the seat of Catholic Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

We in the modern era are confused as to what a cathedral is. When asked, most students thought it referred to any large and important church (regardless of denomination). What exactly is a cathedral? The word cathedral is derived from the Greek καθέδρα – cathedra, which translates as seat and thus refers to the presence of a bishop’s (or archbishop’s) throne. By this very definition alone, the tiny cathedral of St. Luke’s in Hong Kong has a more valid claim to that name than Bethesda Cathedral.

Cathedrals usually serve as the central church of the bishopric (or archbishopric). The seat marks the place set aside in the prominent church of the diocese for the head of that diocese, and is therefore a symbol of authority. Also note that cathedrals may have different levels of dignity:
1. the simple cathedral church of a diocesan bishop
2. the metropolitical church to which the other diocesan cathedral churches of a province are suffragan
3. the primatial church under which are ranged metropolitical churches and their provinces
4. patriarchal churches to which primatial, metropolitical and simple cathedral churches alike owe allegiance

Occasionally, two churches share the distinction of containing the bishop’s cathedra – in which case they are called co-cathedrals. Note that the aforementioned apply only in the Catholic Church.

This term is not used in Orthodoxy. The church of a bishop is known as ‘the great church’, although ‘cathedral’ is commonly used in most English translations.

Gee, I've always wondered why Hagia Sophia is always referred to as "the Great Church of Hagia Sophia"

More often than not, they are particularly imposing structures and the grandest of churches – especially so during the medieval and Renaissance times. Stunning examples of this include:

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), Italy

Notre Dame de Paris, France

Timişoara Cathedral, Romania

I have sent a modified copy of my rant to the clergy of Bethesda Cathedral, requesting that the word ‘cathedral’ be dropped from their name due to erroneous usage. Those who think I am overreacting should consider whether a school has the right to call itself a school if it does not teach or a fishmonger the right to call himself a fishmonger, if he sells clothing instead of fish.


Blogger Iosue Andreas said...

Interesting. Korean Catholics use the term "great church" (from the Chinese "大聖堂" if I'm not mistaken) for "cathedral."

Sun Oct 30, 08:17:00 am 2005  

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