ATLANTA, Georgia, AUG. 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A church in downtown Atlanta will have the honor of being named a minor basilica.
Sacred Heart Church will be elevated to the basilica status at a Mass on Saturday that also will mark the 130th anniversary of the founding of the parish. Archbishop Wilton Gregory will celebrate the Mass.
The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments bestowed the basilica classification.
Father T.J. Meehan, pastor of Sacred Heart, classified the honor as “an affirmation of the faith of so many Atlanta families whose Catholic heritage can be traced back (to Sacred Heart) for more than 100 years.”
“When our church was built in 1898,” he said, “no sacrifice was too great and no effort was spared to make sure that this remarkably beautiful sanctuary would continue to honor God and inspire generations of worshippers.”
The pastor explained that one of the criteria for becoming a basilica was proving that the parish is vibrant, “and we’re very happy to show this is the case here at Sacred Heart.” The number of families at the parish has grown from 700 to 1,300 in the last five years.
A minor basilica must be a center of active and pastoral liturgy with a vibrant Catholic community and may have unique historical, artistic or religious import. In seeking the distinction, the parish must provide a detailed report with photographs documenting the origin, history and religious activity of the church and its exterior and interior form, particularly regarding celebration of the sacraments.
Archbishop Gregory noted that Sacred Heart is one of the oldest parishes in the archdiocese and “links us to our religious heritage and to the many faithful Catholics who have gone before us.”
The parish was founded in 1880 and was originally known as Sts. Peter and Paul. When the French Romanesque church designed by architect W.T. Downing was dedicated in 1898, the parish was renamed in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Marist Fathers at that time cared for the parish, which included all of North Atlanta and 9,500 square miles of mission territory in North Georgia.
Among many outstanding architectural features are 28 stained glass windows installed in 1902 from the Mayer Studios in Munich, Germany, twin octagonal towers and a rose window.