A Nov. 9 decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently received by Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston Michael J. Bransfield, has elevated the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, West Virginia to a minor basilica of the Catholic Church.
The day of the decree was the Solemnity of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, the mother church of all cathedrals and basilicas throughout the world.
Speaking in a statement from the diocese, Bishop Bransfield said he was “very pleased” for all of the people of the basilica.
“This is a beautiful gift for the parish, and having a minor basilica here distinguishes the Charleston community as well as the entire Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. I sincerely thank the Vatican for this decision,” the bishop commented.
The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is the 63rd minor basilica designated in the United States. All four of the world’s major basilicas are in Rome.
Minor basilicas enjoy special rights and privileges, such as being pilgrimage sites for plenary indulgences.
Msgr. P. Edward Sadie, rector of the newly elevated basilica, said he and parishioners are grateful to Pope Benedict and senior Church leaders for approving the action.
He also expressed gratitude towards Bishop Bransfield for encouraging him in his request and for approving and supporting the petition.
Msgr. Sadie reported that Msgr. Kevin M. Quirk, the rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling and judicial vicar of the diocese, was also instrumental in the effort.
The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was established as a parish on Aug. 1, 1866. It has continued to function as a parish even after its October 1974 designation as a co-cathedral. Construction began on its current structure in July 1895. It was dedicated in 1897.
The parish has played a unique role in West Virginia and the Kanawha Valley. It began with only 63 Catholic families within a 50-mile radius. Now more than 1,000 families are parishioners and thousands more worship in its daughter parishes.
On Jan. 12, 2008 Bishop Bransfield designated the basilica a diocesan shrine of Santo Niño de Cebu, the patron and protector of the Philippines.
Filipinos from the tri-state area and the general population regularly visit the church.
Msgr. Sadie said he hoped the new status of the basilica would encourage more visitors and “make our parishioners even more proud of the church.”