published Friday, May 13th, 2011

Sts. Peter and Paul designated a basilica

Deacon Sean Smith, left, and Bishop Richard F. Stika, right, consecrate communion after announcing that Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in downtown Chattanooga has been designated as Tennessee's first minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI, as of May 3, 2011. 
Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Deacon Sean Smith, left, and Bishop Richard F. Stika, right, consecrate communion after announcing that Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in downtown Chattanooga has been designated as Tennessee's first minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI, as of May 3, 2011. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Rita Cooper was afraid it was bad news.

“I knew the bishop was going to make an announcement,” she said, “but I thought he was going to dissolve the parish.”

Instead, Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church has been designated a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.

Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville made the announcement at a noon Mass before some 75 people at the Eighth Street parish Thursday.

“This is the mother church of this part of the diocese,” he said. “This is a small way in which the [Catholic] church universal has recognized the importance of this parish and its people.”

Sts. Peter and Paul is the first basilica in Tennessee and one of fewer than 70 in the country, the bishop said. The designation carries certain rights and privileges.

According to information from the diocese, minor basilicas are traditionally named because of their antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth, and/or their significance as centers of worship.

A basilica must “stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy,” a 1989 Vatican document states.

The parish was founded in 1852, its Gothic building was dedicated in 1890 and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Its colorful stained-glass windows were designed by artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, and its 14 polychrome stations of the cross were created by a French artist who was said in an 1892 newspaper article to have spent 17 years designing them and three years producing them.

The Rev. George E. Schmidt, pastor since 1986, was named the basilica’s first rector.

Stika said the basilica designation had to be approved by the Vatican.

“Many churches are turned down,” he said.

The Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul will continue to be a center of spiritual life and activities, Stika said. Except for the presence of several “ecclesiastical privileges,” little will change, he said.

One symbolic change, he said, will allow the basilica to display the papal symbol — crossed keys — on banners, furnishings and on its seal.

“We recognize the building for its historical significance,” Stika said, “but [the status] also honors the people.”

Sts. Peter and Paul members approved the new status.

“I’m so excited,” said Cooper, who said she’d been a member for 65 years. “I can’t believe it.”

Bert Shramko, a member for nine years, recognized the rarity of the basilica designation and said he was happy for Schmidt.

“It’s quite an honor,” he said.

A Mass of Thanksgiving is tentatively planned for Oct. 22, which is the recently established feast day for the late Pope John Paul II, officials said.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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Veritas said...

Were the sinful and disgusting acts of Monsignor Francis Pack (a regular in the men's restroom at the Greyhound bus station) and Father Bill Casey (an admitted homosexual child molester) taken into consideration when Benny 16 elevated this church to the level of a basilica? Probably not, he was too busy covering-up the misdeeds of more Papal Pedophiles.

May 13, 2011 at 10:20 a.m.
olderandwiser said...

I spent 16 years here in chatty in parochial education. Did you? It wasn't perfect, human activities never are, but, hanging your hate on the Catholic Church and certain priests in particular is wrong. My suggestion to you, get some professional help and make sure to talk about your anger management issues, you might get some relief.

May 13, 2011 at 4:35 p.m.
Veritas said...

olderandweiser, your response to my criticism is typical of a post-Vatican II, "kum by yah" mentality, "let's all hold hands, kiss and make up". It is this very attitude that has produced the recent scandalls in the RC Church. Tolerance and latitude in matters of religion merely leads to a watered down version of Christianity, the Episcopal Church is a prime example of this phenomenon.

May 14, 2011 at 10 a.m.
olderandwiser said...

Veritas, at my young age of 65, I have seen and experienced about all the church could throw at me. I have seen my share of abuse but I still believe in the institution. St Peter and Paul is fantastic structure, actually, it is two churches. The original Church is below the present day structure. I have fond memories of this building and no mortal, bad priest or other person can change that!

May 14, 2011 at 9:31 p.m.
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