PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - It was a historic night for Catholics in Pensacola.
Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski , who also serves as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee , presided Friday night at a Mass inaugurating St. Michael the Archangel Church to the honor of basilica. Concelebrating the Mass with Archbishop Wenski were Most Rev. Oscar H. Lipscomb , archbishop emeritus of the Mobile archdiocese, as well as the priests of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
A basilica is a church that enjoys special honor and status bestowed by the Pope. Pope Benedict XVI announced the designation of St. Michael as a basilica in January.
In procession preceding the Archbishop at the beginning of the Mass, the special symbols of a basilica were carried by long-time St. Michael parishioners. Bill Smith carried the tintinnabulum, a bell mounted on a post that once heralded the approach of the Pope to a basilica. Nancy Fetterman, Claire (Sissy) Perry and Phil Pfieffer carried the ombrellino, a small umbrella created in the papal colors of red and gold that was traditionally used to protect the Pope from inclement weather as he traveled to a basilica church. An apostolic decree from the Holy Father declaring St. Michael a minor basilica was carried in procession by Elie Zetouni and read aloud to the assembly of more than 400. Archbishop Wenski presented the decree to the rector of the basilica, Father Peter McLaughlin.
Praise for Archbishop Lipscomb
In his homily, Archbishop Wenski praised Archbishop Lipscomb for his role in preserving and promoting the history of the basilica, which was until the establishment of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in 1975 a parish of the Mobile diocese. Archbishop Wenski also praised Most Rev. John H. Ricard, bishop emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee, for working tirelessly to petition the Holy See to bestow the honor on St. Michael Church. The Diocese told Fox 10 News that Bishop Ricard , who retired last year citing ill health, had a prior commitment and could not attend the service.
The Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel was designated in part due to its long history. Tracing its roots to the Spanish exploration of northwest Florida in the 16th century, the parish was canonically established in 1781 and is the oldest continuously operating parish in the state of Florida. The current church building was dedicated in 1886.
Although St. Michael experienced numerous natural disasters, many of the original furnishings from 1886 are still in use, including the carved wooden altars, Stations of the Cross and church bells. The stained glass windows, which were imported from Munich, Germany, replaced an older set sometime after 1906 because of an 1896 hurricane.
The church was heavily damaged again in September 2004 by Hurricane Ivan. Restoration was completed in 2007 under the direction of Father McLaughlin, who has served as pastor since July of 2004.
FYI: What is a basilica?
Basilica is title of honor bestowed on a church of historical and spiritual importance by the Holy Father. Churches honored with the title Basilica belong to two classes, major and minor. There are four major basilicas in Rome (St. Peter's, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls) and 72 minor basilicas in the United States, in addition to more than 1500 other minor basilicas throughout the world. The Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel is the fourth basilica in Florida. The others are the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando and the Basilica of St. Paul in Daytona Beach. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is located in Mobile.
The trial for Giuseppe Pino LoPorto continues today in Baldwin County. LoPorto, now 80-years-old, faces several sex abuse charges against a child dating back to the early 90s.
FOX10 News has learned William "Eddie" Patrick, captain of Mobile's First police precinct, has been demoted following an internal investigation.
A man who bought a bicycle three weeks ago finds out it was originally stolen, according to the original owner who reported it missing in October.
If you were in the Foley area Thursday, you may have seen a helicopter, police and K-9 units. That’s because a store in Foley was robbed this morning at gunpoint. Eventually, the search was called off. The suspect is still on the loose.
Pastor of Lifeway Community Church Mike McPherson says thieves stole presents that would have been given to needy children.
Skies are mostly clear and the breezy north wind is very noticeable this evening. Daytime highs were only in the mid 50’s today. We are expecting a light freeze tonight along and north of I-10. Lows will be near 32 degrees in Mobile. Upper 20’s are possible well inland.