St. Francis Xavier, the oldest black Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Miami, was formally dedicated for the first time Sunday, after completing a $14.5-million restoration to repair damage from a 2002 Christmastime arson, reported The Associated Press.
A 12-year-old boy, who had been expelled from the church’s school, set the 77-year-old church on fire Dec. 20, 2002, police said. No one was hurt in the fire. The extensive repairs needed to the sanctuary were mostly paid for with insurance money.
Church leaders were surprised to learn that Sunday's dedication was the first for the historic church, likely because it began as a black mission. Mission churches weren't dedicated the way other churches are, explained Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora.
''We were looking through the church archives and found that this church was never formally dedicated,'' told Rev. John Madigan, pastor of the parish, to Miami Herald. “I was just as surprised as anyone because this is very much a historic church.''