Pope Francis Bestows Basilica Designation Upon Olean Church

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. -- Saint Mary of the Angels in Olean is officially designated a minor basilica, as announced Friday morning by Bishop Richard Malone of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, with the official papal stamp of approval on hand.

"So now in our diocese we have three. We have a northern, a central and a southern basilica. Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima up in Youngstown, and here of course, Our Lady of Victory Basilica, and now Saint Mary of the Angels in Olean,” said Malone.

The announcement, which fell on Saint Patrick's Day, also holds meaning for Father Gregory Dobson, who says his congregation has a large Irish population.

"To have it in three different places recognizes there are distinct populations. As I mentioned in my remarks, the Southern Tier Catholic community has a very ancient history in Western New York, pre-dating the Polish immigration into Erie County, the Italian immigration. They've been there a long, long time,” said Dobson.

The process to become a minor basilica took nearly two years and involved translating a 100-page application from Latin into English. According to Malone, the process also involves extreme scrutiny from the Vatican.

"A basilica really is distinguished by its history, but its artistic beauty, by its dignity and not just history, but having currently an active, vibrant, vital community of faith."  

Saint Mary of the Angels is now the 83rd minor basilica in the U.S. and the 9th in the state of New York, Malone said. It's an honor that church leaders say also serves to unite the Catholic community as a whole.

"It reminds Catholics really that while we live our lives in a local parish, that we're bigger than that. We are also part of diocese, and for us of course the diocese is the eight counties of Western New York, and the diocese is part of the universal church,” said Malone.

The official celebration for the church's new designation will take place on June 29.

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