By Vatican News
“With all praise and glory to God, Pope Francis has elevated Mission San Buenaventura to the status of a Minor Basilica, the first basilica in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.” The announcement of the papal honour was made on the Mission’s website on Wednesday, the feast of St Bonaventure.
The Mission San Buenaventura was founded on Easter Sunday, 31 March 1782, by Fra Junipero Serra. It was the ninth and last of the historic missions founded by the Franciscan saint. The original church building was destroyed by fire, and construction of a second church was abandoned when “the door gave way.” The present church was begun in 1792, but not completed until 1809. The Church was dedicated on 9 September of that year, with the first Sunday liturgy celebrated the following day.
“This is holy ground”
News of Pope Francis’s decision to raise the Mission to the status of a Basilica was communicated to the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal José Goméz, on June 30. Following the announcement, Cardinal Goméz celebrated a special Mass at the Mission, joined by regional Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron and Father Tom Elewuat, San Buenaventura’s pastor.
During the liturgy, Cardinal Gomez explained, “When the Pope designates a basilica, it means this is holy ground, that something beautiful and important in the history of salvation happened here.” The designation of a church as a minor Basilica is a recognition of its importance in the pastoral life of the local Church, often because of its historical significance, its status as a shrine, or because of the presence of major relics of a saint or of a notably venerated sacred image.
New ways of evangelization
Churches with the title of Minor Basilica are marked in a special way by their connection to the Pope and the Church of Rome, and so serve as a sign and symbol of the universality of the Church. Basilicas are granted the privilege of an “ombrellino” – a red and yellow, cone-shaped canopy — and a “tintinnabulum,” a bell mounted on a pole that can be carried in processions. Basilicas are also permitted to use the crossed “papal keys” on banners and signs.
Commenting on the Mission’s new status as a Basilica, the pastor, Fr Elewuat, said, “This is going to put a greater responsibility on the parish leadership and the people of the parish to discover new ways of evangelization in the spirit of St. Junípero Serra and St. Bonaventure.”