DAYTONA BEACH — Pope Benedict XVI now has a place to call home in Central Florida.
St. Paul Catholic Church will celebrate tonight its designation as one of only 60 "minor basilicas" in the United States and just the second in Florida to have the honor of being a "home away from Rome" for the pope.
Tonight, the oldest Catholic church in Central Florida will capture the limelight in a city that is better known for events such as Speedweeks, Bike Week and spring break.
"It is a really rare honor, the highest honor accorded to a church and community," said the Rev. Bob Webster, St. Paul’s rector. "For residents of Daytona Beach who are looking for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the designation of a basilica is even bigger than that to Catholic churches."
Bishop Thomas Wenski of the Orlando Diocese will formally declare the church The Basilica of St. Paul at a special Mass tonight on the feast day of the conversion of St. Paul. It is the first such designation in the United States since Benedict became pope.
It is the first basilica in the nine-county diocese and sets St. Paul apart from the more than 20,000 Catholic churches in the United States. The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine, designated in 1976, is the only other in the state.
Basilicas are a pilgrimage destination for Catholics and "a home away from Rome for the pope," Webster said.
There are two types of basilicas: major and minor. There are eight major basilicas, six of them in Rome. The others are the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, and the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.Wenski said the designation is "an honor we will cherish. It is an expression of our unity with the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI." [Source]
The parish has a fairly cool web page built entirely in Flash, unfortunately they failed to include any real pictures of the Basilica or its interior.