NEW YORK (1010 WINS/CBS 2/WCBS 880) – St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was inaugurated as a basilica Sunday afternoon.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan presided over the ceremony and afterward spoke with 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon about what the honor meant for the church.
“It’s a deeper sign of affection and bond with the Bishop of Rome — our Holy Father the Pope, and it’s sort of an affirmation that ‘hey you’re doing…a decent job.'”
Dolan was also asked if the Pope would come downtown to visit the church on his next visit to New York.
“[St. Patrick’s Cathedral] is still the central church in town,” Dolan said, “but who knows, he might come here.”
The cathedral, located in Little Italy, has been a spiritual center for New York’s Catholics since 1809 and will be the city’s first basilica.
“The elevation of a church to the status of basilica is an expression of its history its role in the community,” Msg. Donald Sakano told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey. “The first American cardinal received his red hat in this building.”
Parishioners said the honor well deserved.
“I’m honored the church is becoming a basilica,” Susan Martini said.
Gussie Defranco said the church has been a significant place in her life.
“I love to come here and feel in the presence of God. I just love it here,” DeFranco said.
From the ancient burial crypt below to the brick wall that surrounds it, this is a place filled with reminders of the past.
“It was rough going for Irish immigrants. There were attempts to burn the church actually, and so a wall was built around the perimeter of our church which stands today,” Sakano said.
Msg. Donald Sicano told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb that the church now finds young people flocking to its door on Sunday nights.
“We use Gregorian Chant. These are tried and true ways that bring God into their lives, and so it becomes part of their heartbeat, if you will,” Sicano said.
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports
Because of what’s here, and what’s happened, the Pope elevated this church to the level of basilica back in March.
“It is the Pope’s church outside of Rome. When he comes to New York, this is a church he would think of coming to to pray,” Sakano said.
Director Martin Scorsese was a parishioner and once served as an altar boy here. Several Hollywood films, including “Gangs of New York” and “The Godfather,” featured the church wall and interior of the church.
Now basilica status will be the foundation of the parish’s future.
“It’s not just being a museum of the past, but being a place where people can encounter the holy and integrate that within their own lives,” Sakano said.