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Historic Virginia parish elevated to minor basilica status

St. Andrew's Basilica, in Roanoke, VA

Mapoff | Fair Use via YouTube

J-P Mauro - published on 12/12/23

St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia, has become the second minor basilica in the Diocese of Richmond, where it has stood for over 100 years.
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The Catholic community of St. Andrew’s Church, in Roanoke, Virginia, is celebrating their parish’s elevation to the status of minor basilica. The new distinction makes St. Andrews the second minor basilica in the Diocese of Richmond, and the only named minor basilica in the western region of Virginia. On the heels of Philadelphia’s Shrine of the Immaculate Medal’s elevation to minor basilica status, the addition of St. Andrews brings the total number of basilicas in the US up to 93.

Built between 1900 and 1902, St. Andrew’s has always borne the image of a house of worship much grander than a simple parish church. Its high-Victorian Gothic style includes a cruciform plan with two tall Gothic towers flanking the main entrance. With its enormous rose window, the facade almost resembles Paris’ Notre Dame, while the interior is just as stunning, with marble floors and walls leading to a grand display of a white reredos and various frescoes. It has been on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1973.

According to the diocese’s website, the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments granted the title in a September 6 letter. The formal ceremony to read the official Vatican decree and bless the physical symbols that signify the church’s elevation to this status was held on December 3.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond celebrated the Mass and commented in his address: 

“The history and architectural beauty of St. Andrew’s make it a beacon of faith to all in the Western Vicariate of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, but, especially to the faithful of the Roanoke Valley and the surrounding region.” 

The bishop went on to acknowledge the “hard work” of parishioners and all parties involved in “bringing this to fruition.” He noted that the new designation will allow the church to further its efforts to bring attention to the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, in solidarity with the multi-year effort of the ongoing Eucharistic revival in the US.

“With this decree, I hope more individuals will be drawn to visit this special treasure, and in doing so, will draw more to inquire about our faith … May this basilica continue to be a place of personal encounter with Christ, a place of robust faith formation and through its beauty externally and in the liturgy – elevate the hearts and minds of all who attend Mass here.”

The items blessed at the dedication Mass, which denote the minor basilica’s status, include the ombrellino (umbrella); the tintinnabulum (bell); and papal cross keys. The ombrellino, a distinctive symbol of the minor basilica’s special relationship to the Holy Father — bearing the papal colors of red and yellow — is present in basilicas around the world. It can be seen in the sanctuary beside the pulpit in the Mass streamed below. 

St. Andrew’s has for years streamed Masses on YouTube, a practice they will continue as they move forward as a minor basilica. Follow The Basilica of St. Andrew’s YouTube channel to see more of this splendid and storied parish. 

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