The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has issued a decree granting Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Columbia the title ‘Minor Basilica.’
This makes the church the first basilica in the Diocese of Charleston, which comprises the entire state of South Carolina. It is the 85th in the United States. Three basilicas exist in North Carolina — in Asheville, Belmont and Wilmington.
“There are some exciting things that come to the renowned and to the honor that has been granted to us. We are incredibility excited and humbled,” Saint Peter’s pastor The Very Reverend Canon Gary Linsky told South Carolina Radio Network.
The 111-year-old Roman Catholic Church is now officially named “The Basilica of Saint Peter.” Bishop of Charleston The Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone made the announcement during Sunday’s 11:00 a.m. Mass. “We are honored to now have a minor basilica in South Carolina,” Guglielmone said in a statement. “We hold this parish in high esteem because of its spiritual and historical significance to the Diocese of Charleston.”
Saint Peter’s had its origin in 1821 when the Diocese of Charleston’s first bishop, John England, sent Fr. Dennis Corkery to minister to Irish workers building a local canal. Work on the original parish church began in 1824 and survived the burning of Columbia near the end of the Civil War. It was replaced by the current, neo-Gothic church in 1907.
The word basilica is derived from a Greek term meaning “royal house.” In the Catholic Church, a basilica is recognized for its history and strong community by the Pope. As part of its status, it is accorded special privileges.
“We have a lot to do now to maintain the church, to enhance its growth and to be a place of pilgrimage. And hopefully, a place that enhances the faith of the many who pass through our doors,” said Linsky.
There are two kinds of basilicas. The world’s four major, or papal, basilicas are all in Rome: St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. Minor, or lesser, basilicas are significant churches in Rome and elsewhere in the world that meet certain criteria and are given special ecclesiastical privileges. Minor basilicas are traditionally named because of their antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth, and significance as centers of worship. A basilica must “stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy,” according to the 1989 Vatican document Domus ecclesiae.
Saint Peter’s is the only parish church in the Diocese of Charleston, and only the second American Southeast church, to have hosted a papal visit. Then-Pope John Paul II led an ecumenical prayer service there in 1987 during a visit to the United States that also included a stop at the University of South Carolina.
Additional information about The Basilica of Saint Peter may be found at visitstpeters.org.