The Vatican has conferred the status of a Minor Basilica to Zimbabwe’s St Mary’s Cathedral in the country’s second largest city of Bulawayo in recognition of its history, architectural beauty and the formation of faith.


Bulawayo Archbishop Alex Thomas described the conferment of the status by the 77 year old Roman Catholic Pope Francis as a blessing and privilege to the catholic family in Zimbabwe, in an interview with the Bulawayo based Radio Dialogue.


“This is a tremendous status and this is the first Minor Basilica in the Southern region, the closest one is in Kenya and so this is a unique privilege to the country and the region,” said Thomas.


Archbishop Thomas described the criteria of conferment of the basilica status as a sign that the church has played an important role in the evangelisation of the local societies and the country at large as well as the attraction of large numbers of pilgrims.


“Our mass celebrations in any given Sunday attract over 1 000 congregants and the St Mary will now be a center where Catholic teachings are taught, counselling and confession,” said Thomas.


Most Basilicas around the world also serve as tourists attractions in their countries because of their historical significance and as such it is expected that St Mary’s will bring economic benefits to the community of Bulawayo and the country at large.


St Mary’s which becomes the 17th Basilica in Africa was built in 1903 and is past a century in age at 110 years, this year.


Several considerations are looked into at designating a Minor Basilica and among them is the demonstration of its magnificence to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, it must be a notable religious centre.


Below is a list of the Basilicas in Africa, St Mary’s included:


Basilica of our Lord of Africa                                            Algiers


Basilica of St Augustine                                                 Algeria


Basilica of the Immaculate Conception                             Benin


Basilica of Marry Queen of the Apostles                           Cameroun


Basilica of our lady of peace                                           Cote d’Ivoire


Basilica of St Theresa of the Child Jesus                          Egypt


Cathedral of our lady of Fatima                                        Egypt


St Peters Cathedral Basilica                                           Ghana


Cathedral Basilica of our Lady of Seven Sorrows               Ghana


Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family                               Kenya


Cathedral Basilica of the Most Holy                                 Nigeria


Cathedral Basilica of our Lady                                         Rwanda


Basilica of Our Lady of Deliverance                                  Senegal


Cathedral of St Louis                                                      Tunisia


Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary                                 Uganda


Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs                                        Uganda


St Mary’s Cathedral                                                       Zimbabwe