The Diocese of Avila reported that the decree raising the shrine to the status of a minor basilica was announced June 20 and signed by the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera.
The cardinal will visit the city on June 25 and together with Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, he will process to the new Pontifical Basilica in Montilla. There they will celebrate a special Mass of Thanksgiving for the pontifical designation.
The term basilica comes from the Greek and means “royal house.” In Greek and Roman times it referred to a majestic public buildings used as tribunals of justice. It became part of the Catholic vocabulary when various of these buildings were turned into Christian places of worship.
The few major basilicas worldwide include four in Rome – St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls – although the churches of St. Laurence Outside the Walls and St. Francis in Assisi are also major basilicas. There are some 1,500 minor basilicas globally.
Pope Benedict XVI has made the Shrine of St. John of Avila in Montilla, Spain, where the future Doctor of the Church is buried, into a minor Pontifical Basilica.