St Mary’s earns Basilica status

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MORE than a thousand Roman Catholic Church congregants from the Archdiocese of Bulawayo yesterday thronged St Mary’s Cathedral to attend a colourful church mass, held in honour of the church, which had just been bestowed the Minor Basilica status by Pope Francis I.

REPORT BY PAMELA MHLANGA

The church could not hold the multitudes and several hundreds of them had to follow proceedings from a huge television set fitted for the ceremony.

Pope Francis’ representative from Harare and various priests from different Catholic parishes in and around Bulawayo also took part in the event.

St Mary’s Cathedral becomes the first Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe and southern Africa and the 17th on the continent to be bestowed the Minor Basilica status.

A Basilica, according to Catholics, is a designation or status given to a church by the Pope through a proclamation passed by the congregation for Divine Worship and sacraments.

The governing body of the Roman Catholic Church confers this honour to churches of historical significance, as well as the local area, diocese or even region the church is located in.

Addressing congregants at the event, Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop George Kochery, representing Pope Francis, said the status given to the church was a symbol of its loyalty to God and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole.

“I have seen that you love God, you love the church and you love the Pope and I pray that this loyalty increases each day,” he said.

Bulawayo Archbishop Alex Thomas said the special status granted to St Mary’s was a great blessing and a privilege to all the Catholics of Zimbabwe in 2013, which has been designated as the Catholic Church’s year of faith.

“This is a privilege granted by the Pope to a church for its architectural beauty, its history and its role in the formation of faith,” he said.

Bulawayo town clerk Middleton Nyoni said the city was humbled and excited on this distinction that had been accorded to St Mary’s.

“Given that the term basilica comes from a Greek word meaning regal or kingly, it is only befitting that St Mary’s be conferred with Minor Basilica status, a royal recognition coincidental to both the City of Kings and St Mary’s Cathedral,” he said.

Nyoni said Bulawayo appreciated Catholic basilicas were designated Catholic pilgrimage sites, receiving thousands of visitors per year and he had no doubt that the hospitality industry of the city would greatly benefit from this new development.