Updated: July 21, 2020 05:38 AM GMT
Santa Anastasia Minor Basilica, which the Vatican on July 8 allotted to Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church to base its pastoral activities in Rome. (Image: Wikipedia)
The Vatican has handed over the historically significant Santa Anastasia Minor Basilica in Rome to India’s Syro-Malabar Church to base its pastoral activities for migrant members in the region.
“It is a huge recognition for the Syro-Malabar community,” said Father Abraham Kavilpurayidathil, public relations officer of the Eastern-rite Church based in southern India's Kerala state.
The priest told UCA News on July 20 that Syro-Malabar bishops during their 2019 ad limina visit to the Vatican, mandatory every five years, had requested Pope Francis to allot a church for their community.
The basilica will become the center of pastoral activities for some 7,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in the Diocese of Rome and adjacent areas, the Church said in a July 19 statement.
Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, issued a decree on July 8 assigning Santa Anastasia Minor Basilica to the Syro-Malabar Church.
The basilica is one of the oldest Christian churches and one of the oldest minor basilicas in the world. It was built in the fourth century during the reign of Emperor Constantine. Until the end of the seventh century, several popes celebrated their Christmas Masses at the basilica.
St. Jerome, the great Bible scholar, preached in the basilica, which is built on the Palatine Hill, the administrative center of the Roman Empire, very close to the Colosseum.
Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, will appoint a priest as chaplain of Syro-Malabar Catholics to be based at the basilica.
Pope Francis showed “special interest” to designate a church for the community “without much delay,” the statement said.
The community has not organized any celebration for this major recognition because of the restrictions linked with the global coronavirus pandemic, it said.
Syro-Malabar Catholics trace their faith St. Thomas, the apostle who, according to tradition, preached on India’s southwest coast. It is among the three rites that make up the Catholic Church in India. The others are Latin rite and the Eastern-rite Syro-Malankara Church.
“It is a matter of great joy that the Kerala community has got a church assigned to us in Rome," Latin-rite Bishop Alex Vadakumthala of Kannur told UCA News on July 20.
“Now our people can gather together in their church and offer prayers in their mother tongue — Malayalam.”