PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) — The Vatican decree elevating the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia to the status of minor basilica brings “great joy” to the entire Philadelphia Archdiocese, said Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez.
“The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a great gift drawing souls closer to Christ through the intercession of the Blessed Mother,” he said in a statement issued Jan. 25, the day the basilica designation was announced.
The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, as it is now called, is a Marian devotional destination in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and is a ministry of the Vincentians in their congregation’s Eastern province.
“I congratulate the Vincentians and all those working to sustain the shrine and its ministry. May their work continue to bear great fruit,” the archbishop added.
This basilica designation is shared by only one other church in the city of Philadelphia, the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, and 91 others across the United States.
The title of minor basilica is given to churches around the world in recognition of their historical or cultural importance, artistic beauty and significance in the life of the Catholic Church. The title denotes also a closer relationship to the pope. Such a church also must be a center of active and pastoral liturgy with a vibrant Catholic community.
“It is an esteemed honor to be recognized by the Vatican as a minor basilica,” said Vincentian Father Timothy V. Lyons, rector of the newly designated basilica. “We are both overjoyed and humbled by this recognition. This historic proclamation marks the next chapter in the shrine’s history and recognizes the significant role it has played in the Catholic Church, the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the shrine community.”
The new designation followed a multiyear application process, which culminated in the decree issued by Pope Francis.
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.
As a ministry of the Vincentian priests and brothers – whose congregation is formally known as the Congregation of the Mission – the basilica shrine has held historical significance in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Eastern U.S. for more than 140 years.
The building’s Romanesque-style architecture, murals, stained-glass windows, marble altars, sculptures, sanctuary floor, Mary’s Central Shrine, side altars, minor shrines and “exquisite” artwork “could not be replicated today,” said a news release about the shrine’s new status. “Craftsmen, artisans and local laborers helped to build the shrine and create its stunning religious artwork.”
As a basilica, the shrine will be outfitted with an ombrellino, a canopy of yellow and red silk, and together with a tintinnabulum, a bell mounted on a pole used for papal visits, it forms the papal insignia. The basilica shrine also is granted the privilege of displaying Vatican City’s coat of arms on its facade and the crossed keys of St. Peter on all its furnishings and liturgical appointments.