The iconic St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam has been raised to the ranks of a minor basilica.
This Roman Catholic pilgrimage church, which was founded in 1846 by French missionaries from the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, is poised to be Malaysia’s first basilica.
There are currently four major basilicas within Rome, while several minor basilicas are located in other parts of the world.
In welcoming the news, Bishop of Penang Right Reverend Datuk Sebastian Francis said the honour bestowed on the church goes out the multitudes of pilgrims of all nationalities, races and religions who have flocked to the historic church.
“They have made to feel welcome here and this is what has made the church a symbol of inter-religious harmony,” he told the New Straits Times.
He said that the Penang diocese had received a decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome dated Sept 5 which grants the title of ‘Minor Basilica’ to the Church of St Anne.
“My heartfelt thanks and gratitude go to everyone for their prayerful support in this significant and historic milestone for the Diocese of Penang, the Church of Malaysia and the entire region,” Francis said, adding that the official inauguration ceremony of the Minor Basilica of St Anne will be announced once the date is finalised.
A minor basilica is a Catholic church building that has been granted the title of basilica by the Holy See.
Currently, the authorising decree is granted by the Pope through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Talks to get the Church of St Anne to apply for basilica status first surfaced in 2012, when Francis was appointed Bishop of the Penang Catholic Diocese.
The idea was reportedly later supported by Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino, the apostolic nuncio and ambassador of the Vatican to Malaysia, who arrived in the country in 2013. – NST