THE designation of St Mary’s Cathedral in Bulawayo as a Minor Basilica by Pope Francis could not have come at a better time for the City of Kings as it dovetails with the renewed hope that the sleeping giant is about to reawaken.
Southern Eye Editorial
St Mary’s Cathedral became the first Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa and the 17th on the continent to be bestowed the Minor Basilica status.
The honour was celebrated in style on Saturday with a colourful mass, held in honour of the church and attended by Pope Francis’s representative, Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop George Kochery.
Several hundreds of Catholics had to follow proceedings from a huge television set fitted for the ceremony because they could not fit in the cathedral and this was demonstration of what that status means to the church.
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 to the Church, as well as the local area, diocese or even region the church is located in.
Bulawayo town clerk Middleton Nyoni noted that basilicas were designated pilgrimage sites, receiving thousands of visitors per year.
Therefore, the tourism industry in Bulawayo stands to benefit immensely from this new development.
The revival of Bulawayo’s economy will not be driven by the resuscitation of industries alone, but tourism can also play a part, especially at a time when Zimbabwe is anticipating a significant growth in tourist arrivals.
Bulawayo’s hospitality industry must be bracing itself for a new type of tourist — the Catholic Church pilgrims — likely to throng St Mary’s Cathedral.
So the Minor Basilica status would not only be celebrated by Bulawayo’s Catholics, but the entire city because it could herald better days for residents who have suffered for long.