HONOLULU (CNS) — The Vatican has designated Honolulu’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace as a minor basilica in recognition of its historic and spiritual significance.
Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva said he hopes the cathedral basilica, which now holds the relics of St. Marianne Cope and St. Damien de Veuster, will “grow as a spiritual destination for visitors from all over the world.”
Now playing on Hawaii Catholic TV:
“It has been a place of prayer, worship and celebration of the sacraments for generations,” he said, “but its status as a basilica will give it more attention as a place of pilgrimage for visitors and residents alike.”
A Mass of thanksgiving to commemorate the designation is to be celebrated Oct. 11, the fifth anniversary of the canonization of St. Damien, the Belgian missionary who ministered to those with Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, on the island of Molokai in the late 1800s.
Learn more about Hawaii’s saints:
He was succeeded in that ministry by St. Marianne Cope, a U.S. Sister of St. Francis, who was canonized in October 2012. Her remains were interred in the cathedral basilica July 31.
Bishop Silva announced the Vatican decree in a July 18 letter to the clergy, religious and lay Catholics of the Diocese of Honolulu the day after he received via Federal Express the official copy from papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.
Read the bishop’s letter
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in Rome granted Bishop Silva’s petition for the special designation with a 200-word decree in Latin — dated May 10 and signed by prefect Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera.
The document, as translated by diocesan judicial vicar Fr. Mark Gantley, says the Vatican congregation “is pleased to confer the title and dignity of minor basilica, with all corresponding rights and fitting liturgical privileges, to the cathedral church … for the singular purpose of the veneration of the Christian faithful of the place and so as to give exemplary inspiration to all virtuous observers.”
Bishop Silva in his letter said the designation “is an honor that links it in a special way to the Holy Father.”
“Countless thousands have encountered the risen Lord Jesus in word and sacrament and have been renewed and strengthened in their faith” at the cathedral basilica, he added.
A church’s history — compiled by priests
The Honolulu church is the United States’ 82nd minor basilica, including two in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and one in the territory of Guam.
The last American church to be named a basilica was St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, Kansas, in March. The Vatican named three U.S. basilicas in 2013: St. Mary of the Assumption in Marietta, Ohio, Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Shrine of St. Mary in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Worldwide there are more than 1,600 minor basilicas.
The church has four major basilicas, all in Rome: St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major.
Among its distinctions, the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, dedicated in 1843, claims to be the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the United States. It is the church where St. Damien was ordained a priest in 1864 and which greeted St. Marianne Cope when she arrived in Hawaii in 1883. Besides the relics of both saints, the cathedral also contains the graves of Bishop Louis Maigret and Bishop John J. Scanlan.
An application for basilica status must come from the local bishop and include a description of the church, its history and unique nature, and an ample number of detailed interior and exterior photos.
Bishop Silva first inquired about changing the status of the cathedral in 2006 in a letter to the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
He followed up in May of last year with a 25-page application that included details about the church’s history, its construction and furnishings, liturgical practices, pastoral works, restoration plans and about 50 photographs.
— By Patrick Downes, Catholic News Service. Downes is editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu.