St. Mary Catholic Church in Old Town named a basilica

St. Mary Catholic Church in Old Town named a basilica
St. Mary Catholic Church in Old Town has been granted basilica status by the Holy See (Photo courtesy St. Mary)

By Alexa Epitropoulos |

St. Mary Catholic Church has been named the first basilica in Northern Virginia.

The Holy See, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome that is headed by Pope Francis, issued a decree that gives St. Mary Catholic Church the title “minor basilica.”

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, and Father Edward Hathaway, the pastor of St. Mary Church, announced the news at St. Mary’s Sunday mass.

“It is an extraordinary honor to announce that the Holy See has designated St. Mary in Old Town to be the newest basilica in the United States. This historic announcement recognizes the important role St. Mary has played in the Diocese, the City of Alexandria, and even the very founding of our country,” Burbidge said in a statement. “I congratulate Father Hathaway and all of the priests who have served this parish over the generations for their work in bringing St. Mary’s to this special day.”

A basilica denotes a church that’s been given special designation by the Pope. The designation can be for a number of different reasons, but in the case of St. Mary, it is due to the church’s historic significance in the region. St. Mary, which was established in 1795, is the 84th basilica in the United States.

“[Our] designation as a basilica now opens a new chapter in our parish history and brings honor not only to our parish, but to the entire Diocese and to Roman Catholics throughout the country. Being named a basilica carries a special connection for us to the Holy See and the Holy Father in Rome and recognizes St. Mary’s important role within the history of the universal church. Now, more than ever, the faithful and others are encouraged to visit the parish and discover the beauty of the Lord and his love for his sons and daughters,” Hathaway said in a statement. 

Read the full version of this story in Thursday’s print edition.