Pope Francis grants National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak honorary title of Minor Basilica

Jan 31, 2015
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Exterior of National Shrine of the Little FlowerDetroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron announced today that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has granted the title of Minor Basilica to the National Shrine of the Little Flower Church in Royal Oak. The title is given to churches around the world to denote a particular importance in liturgical and pastoral life and a closer relationship with the pope. The title of Major Basilica is reserved to churches in Rome.

"By honoring the National Shrine of the Little Flower with the designation as a Minor Basilica, Pope Francis has blessed all of us in the Archdiocese of Detroit," said Archbishop Vigneron. "As a basilica, the National Shrine helps to express our own relationship to the Holy Father and to enrich the liturgical life of the entire Archdiocese. This honor carries with it a responsibility to share our love of Jesus with more fervor."

Archbishop Vigneron in 2014 requested that the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments grant the title to the Royal Oak church, commonly known as "Shrine." The church's pastor Father Robert Fisher, and former pastor, the late Monsignor William Easton, had led a years-long effort at the parish to build a case for the honorary title.

"We are most grateful to Pope Francis for the designation, and to Archbishop Vigneron for his support and guidance to obtain it," said Father Fisher, who became Shrine's pastor in early 2014 succeeding Monsignor Easton, who had been pastor there for 19 years before his unexpected death. "The essence of being a National Shrine — and now a Minor Basilica — is drawing people closer to the Lord by providing a place for prayer, and where one's spiritual life can be refreshed, energized and deepened. We recognize our responsibility all the more to spread the Gospel message to all who come our way."

Interior of National Shrine of the Little Flower

Among criteria for becoming a Minor Basilica, Shrine had to demonstrate its heightened liturgical activity and its architectural stature. With eight regular Masses each weekend, including one in Spanish, it is among the most active churches in metro Detroit. It has four priests serving full-time. Featuring an Art Deco design, the building has a crucifix-adorned tower on the exterior, and was one of the area's first churches to feature a round sanctuary with the altar in the center. Other distinctive features include a chapel containing numerous sacred objects, including relics of saints, and its Heritage Hall that illustrates the church's rich history.

To mark its designation as a Minor Basilica, Archbishop Vigneron will preside at a solemn celebration of Mass with a reading of the decree at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22. The church's name also will change to reflect its new designation. Due to its closer connection to the pope, Shrine will see enhancements to its already-active liturgical life throughout the year. Though the schedule of services week-to-week will not change, Shrine will observe various feast days associated with St. Peter and the papacy.

Shrine is now one of 82 churches in the United States — and only the second church in Michigan — to hold the title of Minor Basilica. The Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids was named a Minor Basilica in 1980.

One of the archdiocese's largest parishes, Shrine has a membership of more than 3,500 families and operates its own grade school and high school. Founded in 1926, the church was one of the first named after St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a French nun known as the "Little Flower," who was canonized in 1925. In 1998, it became one of the first five churches in the country given the National Shrine designation by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Archdiocese of Detroit has 1.3 million Catholics in 230 parishes across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties.