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Templo / Iglesia

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Templo and Iglesia are two words that confused me for a long time. Part of it was due to a prejudice I had against the word temple. To me, temple carries with it a connotation of a place of worship, in my mind, associated with cults. I have talked with other people about this and they do not share my opinion. But, because of that thinking, I had trouble accepting the term temple when applied to my church.

It is very common to see the word templo used to mean a church building. In English you will often hear preachers making the point that “the church is not the building but the people.” At least where we live, the building is never referred to as the church (iglesia). That word is reserved for the people and templo is used for the building only.

This seems to me to be a very colloquial distinction, though I have grown to really like and appreciate it. I would also think this could change from one religion to another. How are these words distinguished in your country? In your religion?

  • 1

    In Spain, Templo would be used for a pagan place, iglesia would be a christian (usually catholic) place, Iglesia with capital ‘I’ would be the institution itself, for another kind of worship places it can have an especific name too, for example muslim church would be a Mezquita. If you talk about a group of people who goes to a church I would call them congregación.

    luthien on September 2nd, 2007
  • 2

    Here (Mexico) they actually do use Iglesia to mean the Catholic Church building. Interestingly the Catholics make a distinction between “Catholic” and “Christian.” Therefore, the word templo is used for a Christian church, but not a Catholic church.

    We also use the word congregación to refer to the people.

    I have a feeling that this is one of those “region specific” distinctions.

    Thanks for your input!

    David on September 6th, 2007
  • 3

    Here, we don’t have many Christian who aren’t Catholic, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t church for them, so when you say ‘Iglesia’ talking about a church here would be a safe bet it will be a Catholic church

    luthien on September 19th, 2007


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