Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Celebrates Its Elevation Today
ALBUQUERQUE - Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 4, 2005, 5:30 PM
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Santa Fe, NM
The Basilica…the “Cradle of Catholicism” in
the Southwestern United States of America.
Michael J. Sheehan will also present the Fourth St. Francis of Assisi Awards to men and women
who are considered role models from the 93 parishes throughout the Archdiocese. Pastors of
each parish were invited to submit the names of one individual or one married couple to receive
prestigious award. Honorees were invited to bring family and guests to this memorable event.
ABOUT THE BASCILICA
This word from the Greek, meaning "royal hall,” originally applied
to the official building in Roman times, but with the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity,
it came to refer to the dwelling of the King of Kings. Basilica now means a church of particular
importance in Rome and abroad, churches honored by the Holy Father with this title, usually because
of their importance in the history of spreading of Catholicism.
The distinctive emblem of basilicas is the “umbrollino,” a canopy
striped in yellow and red to stand for the papal colors. The umbrollino was formerly carried
over the Pope when he would travel on horseback to make official visits to his special churches.
Another insignia of basilicas is the “tintinnabulum,” a bell
mounted on a staff. Formerly used to notify people of the Pope’s anticipated arrival.
Papal Coat of Arms with the Two Keys
In the Gospel according to Matthew (16: 18 & 19), Jesus gives Peter
the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. One key is gold and one silver. The keys are two parts of
the forgiveness and absolution of sins. The Golden Key is the Divine authority and power given
to the Church to forgive sins. Won by the Passion and Death of Christ on the Cross, it has the
greatest worth. Nevertheless, the Silver Key is also necessary for salvation. It unlocks the
heart of the repentant sinner, disentangling the tentacles of sin.
Coat of Arms for Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Basic shield is that of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which features the
Cross of Our Lord Jesustraversing the entire front. The cross in gold on a red background calls
to mind the colors of Spain from which the first European settlers of New Mexico came. Over the
lower half of the cross, one notes the crossed arms of Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi. Both
hands are marked with the stigmata, or wounds of the crucifixion. In the upper left-hand comer
of the shield is a castle, symbol of the province of Castilla/La Mancha from where many of the
first Spanish pioneers came.
Over the shield is an umbrollino, or canopy, symbol of a Basilica. Apparently,
in ancient times when a pope would visit one of his special churches, he would be greeted by
such a canopy to escort him in. (He would also be greeted by a bell-ringing device called a tintinnabulum
which would be rung to announce His Holiness' arrival.) Both will be present in the Cathedral
Basilica. This canopy is striped red and gold and has three dates: 1610 A.D., date of the parish's
foundation; 1853 A.D., date of its establishment as a Cathedral by Pope Pius IX; and 2005 A.D.,
date of its elevation to Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.
Behind the shield are the crossed keys of St. Peter, preeminent symbol of the
Papacy, signifying the powers to bind and loose. Beneath the shield is the Cathedral Basilica's
new motto, "Rebuild My Church," from the Lord's admonition to St. Francis of Assisi
at the Church of San Damiano in Italy, where the saint began his mission.
Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan brought back history making news from
his summer 2005 visit to Rome. …St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral was to be named Basilica
by Pope Benedict XVI.
The title represents a papal honor given to select churches
throughout the world known for their leadership in the faith life of the people, antiquity, artwork,
and/or importance in the history of the Catholic
faith. In its announcement regarding the new Basilica status for St. Francis Cathedral, the Vatican’s
announcement emphasized that the Santa Fe Cathedral qualified on all levels. Especially noted
fact that the Cathedral was the “cradle of Catholicism” in the Southwestern United States
of America; crucial in the establishment of daughter dioceses (bishoprics) from Denver to El Paso, from
Phoenix to Las Cruces. It is also the goal of many religious pilgrimages, especially to honor the famous
statue of Our Lady of Peace, brought to Santa Fe in 1625.
Archbishop Sheehan said, “During my visit
with the Holy Father, I extended the love and support of the people of the Archdiocese to him. He could
not have been more gracious and supportive during the
audience with the Bishops present. It was deeply moving for me to meet him personally as our Holy Father.”
Francis of Assisi will continue to be called a Cathedral since it is the seat or throne of the local
Archbishop. The Cathedral's title will, however, be amplified to the “Cathedral Basilica of St.
Francis of Assisi.” It is the first church in New Mexico’s long history to be so honored.
a Basilica will mean not only a change in title. St. Francis will receive a new coat of arms, as well
as a canopy specially made in Rome, that is to be used for the occasions of major feasts or
any possible papal visit.
The process of applying for such a status actually began in 2003 when the
Archdiocese of Santa Fe celebrated the 150th Anniversary of its foundation. In that year, the Cathedral’s
Pastoral Council petitioned the Archbishop to begin the process of having its historic church declared
a Basilica, an honor that
can only be granted by the Vatican. The Archbishop then took the petition to the Priests’ Council
of the Archdiocese, which gave it unanimous support. The petition then proceeded to the United States
Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C. where it also received a positive recommendation. Archbishop
Sheehan then sent the petition on to Rome, which in turn sent the Archdiocese a lengthy questionnaire
to be filled out regarding the Cathedral’s qualifications. “I thought we would never finish
filling it out,” said Msgr. Jerome Martinez y Alire, Rector of the Cathedral. “It ended
up totaling 180 pages of text, plus a photo album and a sampling of the many books written about our
church. This was necessary.” The Vatican is reluctant to grant such a title except to truly
deserving sites.” Finally, the petition was hand carried by the Archbishop and Msgr. Martinez
y Alire to Rome in June 2005 and presented to Archbishop Sorrentino, the Vatican’s Secretary
of the Congregation for Divine Worship. In the decision, Archbishop Sorrentino said that the Archdiocese
of Santa Fe had
convinced the Congregation to grant our request. Archbishop Sheehan announced that an official ceremony
for the naming of the Cathedral to Basilica status would be scheduled soon.
history is very rich. Although it has only been a Cathedral (seat of the Archbishop) for 152 years,
the parish was founded in 1610 by Spanish Franciscans sent to missionize the New World.
This makes one of the oldest established Christian congregations in the United States of America,
preceding by 10 years the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.
The present church is actually
the sixth one built on the spot and was begun in 1869 by Santa Fe’s
first Archbishop, Jean Baptiste Lamy. It was designed by French architects, carved by Italian stonemasons
and built by the local New Mexican population. It is home to exquisite French stained glass windows
(recently restored) and Spanish Colonial paintings. It was the subject of Willa Cather’s
famous 19th Century novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop and Lamy of Santa Fe, written by Paul
Horgan in the 20th century