St Lawrence Shrine Attur all set to be ‘Minor Basilica’

St Lawrence Shrine Attur all set to be ‘Minor Basilica’

Udupi: Pope Francis, the 266th Pope of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, had elevated the shrine of St Lawrence at Attur – Karkala to the status of a Minor Basilica on April 26, 2016. St Lawrence Shrine is the 22nd basilica in India and the second in Karnataka, with St Mary’s Basilica in Bengaluru being the first.


The dedication of the new basilica will take place on August 1, 2016. The thanksgiving Holy Mass will be celebrated by cardinals, archbishops and bishops from all over India along with priests, the religious and the laity of the dioceses of Udupi and Mangalore. This historical and memorable event will recognize the shrine of St Lawrence as a sacred sanctuary of blessings, favours, reconciliation, peace, unity and communal harmony.


The word ‘basilica’ is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘royal house’. A basilica is a church building that has been accorded special privileges by the Pope. It is a title of honour given to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as centers of worship. There are 4 major basilicas in the world, all of which are in Rome: St John Lateran (Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome), St Peter’s of the Vatican, St Paul’s outside the walls and St Mary Major. Major basilicas have the papal altars and holy doors, which are opened at the beginning of a jubilee year.


The Pope also grants the title of the minor basilica to certain churches around the world which enjoy certain ceremonial privileges. A basilica must “stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy” according to the 1989 Vatican document ‘Domus Ecclesiae’. As the designation of ‘basilica’ indicates a special bond of communion with the Pope, the parish must celebrate “with particular care” the feast of the Chair of Peter on February 22nd, the solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29, and the anniversary of the Pope’s election or his inauguration into his pastoral ministry.

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Three physical signs indicate that a church is a minor basilica:

1. The presence of the conopaeum – a silk canopy designed with stripes of yellow and red, traditional papal colours.
2. The tintinnabulum or bell – it is mounted on a pole and carried in a procession, along with the conopaeum, at the head of the clergy on special occasions.
3. Minor basilicas have the right to display the papal symbol -crossed keys – on banners, on furnishings, and on the seal of the basilica.

In addition, the basilica’s Rector may wear a black mozzetta, or cape, over his surplice with red piping, buttons, and buttonholes in the exercise of his office. The other privileges granted concern the celebration of the liturgy and a plenary indulgence on certain days to those who pray in the Basilica.


There are at least 1740 minor basilicas in the world (1739 minor basilicas as on 30th June 2015). Of the 22 basilicas in India, 18 are of the Latin Rite, 3 of the Syro-Malabar Rite and 1 of the Syro-Malankara Rite. India is the country with the highest number of basilicas in Asia.

The decree from the Pope, while granting the title of minor basilica, imposes the obligation to celebrate the liturgy with special care, and demands that the church for which the title is requested should have been liturgically dedicated to God and be outstanding as a centre of active and pastoral liturgy, setting an example for the others. It should be sufficiently large and with an ample sanctuary. It should be renowned for history, relics or sacred images, and should be served by a sufficient number of priests and other ministers and an adequate choir. Many basilicas are notable churches and often receive a significant flow of pilgrims and pilgrimages.


Among the churches of any diocese, the Cathedral church holds the first place and the greatest dignity. In it is placed the Cathedra, the sign of the Bishop’s teaching, authority and power, as Pastor of the same Diocese and the sign of communion with the Roman Cathedra of Peter. Next, there are the parish churches, which are the homes of the various communities of the Diocese. In addition, there are shrines to which the Christian faithful of the Diocese or of other local churches go on pilgrimage.

Among these churches and others of different categories, it is found that some have particular importance for liturgical and pastoral life. These may be honoured by the Pope with the title of minor basilica, thereby signifying their particular link with the Roman Church and the Supreme Pontiff.

Offices and duties proper to a basilica in the liturgical and pastoral areas:

1. In a minor basilica, the liturgical instruction of the faithful is to be promoted by establishing groups concerned with liturgical activity by special courses of instruction given in a series of conferences and by other programs of this kind. Among the special activities of a basilica, the study and popularization of documents coming from the Supreme Pontiff and the Holy See, especially those pertaining to the sacred liturgy need to be undertaken.

2. The celebrations of the liturgical year are to be prepared and carried out with great care, especially the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. The word of God is to be diligently proclaimed either in homilies or in special sermons. The active participation of the faithful is to be promoted both in the Eucharistic celebration and the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (official prayer of the Church), especially in the Morning and Evening. In addition, approved forms of devotion are to be suitably fostered.

3. To make clear the particular bond of communion by which the minor basilica is united with the Roman cathedra of Peter, every year these must be celebrated with particular care: the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle (February 22), Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles (June 29) and Anniversary of the Supreme Pontiff’s election/inauguration into the supreme ministry.

It is, indeed, a matter of great joy to all. Shrine of St Lawrence is now a basilica, the St Lawrence Basilica. The title will promote confidence among the devotees in the spiritual services held in the basilica because of its recognition by the Pope and increase faith in God due to the intercessory powers of St Lawrence whose miraculous gifts are experienced by thousands of pilgrims and devotees, who flock to the holy shrine every day.

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Max E Rasquinha

Identifying Basilicas and many other places that deserve Tourist attraction is very important in countries such as India. The history of Christianity in India is an admirable fact for many tourists to understand the journey of St. Thomas to India as an Ambassador of Jesus more than 2000 years ago and the dedication of St. Thomas in India who then paved way for St. Francis Xavier to appear after Vas co da Gama. Christianity in India may still be a negligible portion as compared to the vast population of Hindus and Moslems, yet the handful of Christians in India and… Read more »