This Sunday the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran is celebrated instead of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time. Some background information is presented below to help you to understand the significance of this Feast. —Msgr. Richard
“The Pope’s Cathedral”
This Sunday the Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world.” Most Catholics think of St. Peter’s as the pope’s main church, but they are wrong. St. John Lateran is the pope’s church, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome where the Bishop of Rome presides.
Also called the Church of Holy Savior or the Church of St. John Baptist, it was the baptism church of ancient Rome. It was the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict, in 313, that granted Christians freedom to practice their religion.
The Emperor gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family, and the basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate, that is, the Bishop of Rome’s residence, where the Popes lived until the Avignon period. The basilica’s dedication was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around 324 and was named Most Holy Savior; only after the 6th century were the names of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist added.
Initially the observance of this feast was confined to the city of Rome; then, it 1565, it was extended to all the churches of the Roman rite. The honoring of this edifice was a way of expressing love and veneration for the Roman Church, which, “presides in charity” over the whole Catholic Communion (Letter to the Romans, 1:1).
Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646. One of Rome’s most imposing churches, the towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass.
On this Solemnity the Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which in their letters the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood as a “spiritual edifice,” built by God with “living stones,” namely Christians.
Unlike the commemorations of other Roman churches, this anniversary is a feast. The dedication of a church is a feast for all its parishioners. In a sense, St. John Lateran is the parish church of all Catholics, because it is the Pope’s cathedral. This church is the spiritual home of the people who are the Church.
—compiled from “Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica, Liturgical Calendar, Catholic Culture” and AmericanCatholic.org.
Benedict XVI, Angelus Address
November 9, 2008
“Today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and in truth
(cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.”