St. Michael the Archangel Church named a Minor Basilica

Pope Benedict XVI informed Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, of the decision to designate St. Michael the Archangel, Pensacola, as a minor basilica. The application for consideration of St. Michael as a minor basilica was sent to Pope John Paul II in 2003. The application had to follow strict guidelines and answer specific questions regarding the historical significance of the parish and the church.

Msgr. Luke Hunt, vicar general of the diocese and delegate to the apostolic administrator, said that the parish will commemorate this historical event at a Eucharistic celebration at St. Michael on Friday, February 10, at 7 p.m. (CST). Archbishop Wenski will be the principal celebrant of the Mass.

Basilica is a 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 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.

In his statement announcing the designation, Archbishop Wenski praised Bishop John H. Ricard, bishop emeritus of the diocese, for his perseverance in securing the title of basilica for St. Michael: "We thank Bishop John Ricard, our bishop emeritus, for having made this initial request and for his consistent and persistent work throughout the years. It is only fitting that the Vatican's letter and decree announcing the designation of St. Michael the Archangel to Minor Basilica be in Bishop Ricard's name. On behalf of the Catholics of Pensacola-Tallahassee I thank you, Bishop Ricard, for your vision of bringing this honor to St. Michael the Archangel and the diocese."