Tradition tells us that Pope Sylvester (pope 314-335) was in the presence of the Emperor Constantine, who had gifted him the land for the church that they now stood at, to dedicate the impressive structure to the Lord. It was the year 324, just 11 years after the emperor’s Edict of Milan had established Christianity throughout the empire.
Today, 1,700 years later, began a year-long celebration of the anniversary of that event, beginning this November 9 and ending November 9, 2024.
The plaque on the front of the church spells it out: SACROS LATERAN ECCLES OMNIUM VRBIS ET ORBIS ECCLESIARVM MATER ET CAPUT — Most Holy Lateran Church, mother and head of all the churches in the city and the world.
The current rector is Cardinal Archpriest Angelo De Donatis, Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome. He celebrated solemn Mass beginning the year of celebrations. Priests marking their 25th and 50th anniversaries of Priestly Ordination also participated in the event.
Cardinal De Donatis reflects:
In it one breathes the history of 17 centuries, of a basilica built and rebuilt three times, up to the present building of 1700. Five Ecumenical Councils have been seated in it. In the See of the Chair of Peter all Christians of the world feel the bond with the Bishop of Rome. In this place we Christians of Rome recognize once again the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, pointed out by the Baptist. Here we feel, like the beloved disciple, the heart of Christ the Savior beating, consumed with love for all humanity. In the school of the two ‘Johns’ we find the particular vocation of our Church called to preside in charity.