Pope designates Basilica

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has designated St Mary’s Cathedral church here as a minor Basilica, becoming the first Roman Catholic Church in Southern Africa to be accorded such a title.

Archbishop Alex Thomas
Archbishop Alex Thomas

Archbishop Alex Thomas, the church’s Archbishop for Bulawayo province, said the pope and his council recognised the church for its historical and religious importance.

“This title is conferred to churches that are particulary meritorious. It should be known for its architectural style according to the liturgical norms. The church should also be an acknowledged center of liturgical and postal life for the Archdiocese,” said Archbishop Thomas. He added that the bestowment of St Mary’s as a basilica would be of benefit to all Roman Catholics in Zimbabwe. Bulawayo town clerk, Middleton Nyoni, welcomed the designation saying the move would boost tourism in the city.

“The tourism industry in Bulawayo stands to benefit immensely from this new development. Basilicas are designated pilgrimage sites which receive thousands of visitors per year,” said the town clerk.

St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica
St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica

The Bulawayo municipality granted the Jesuit fathers the current site on which the granite church is built on 1903. The church was built by workmen from Croatia who all came from the same village. Consecration of the church was done on an Easter Sunday, April 3, 1904 during the Pontifical High Mass, presided over by reverend M. Gaughran.

The granite stone for the building came from a quarry three miles from the city. Among other ancient features, the church has a Cross canvass on copper backing surrounded by English oak. The church’s pulpit is made of the Caen stone with marble pillars. The pulpit was designed by Jones and Williams of Birmingham.

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