on being named a minor basilica

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(excerpted from a news article in the East TN Catholic Newspaper written by Dan McWilliams, click here for the full article)

On May 12, 2011, at the noon Mass, Bishop Richard F. Stika announced that Pope Benedict XVI had elevated Sts. Peter and Paul Church to a minor basilica, the first such honor for any Tennessee church. “Pope Benedict XVI has declared and mandated this church now be known as the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul,” said Bishop Stika in his homily.

At the same Mass, Bishop Stika appointed Father George Schmidt, then in his 25th year as pastor of the parish, as the first rector of the basilica.

Sixteen other priests concelebrated the Mass with the bishop and Father Schmidt, including vicars general Monsignor Xavier Mankel and Father David Boettner and a host of Chattanooga Deanery priests.

Before the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul could be given the distinction of Minor Basilica, the diocese of Knoxville had to submit a formal request to the Holy Father in Rome. Deacon Patrick Murphy-Racey shot a video of Father Schmidt and the bishop for a DVD and took photographs for an album, both of which were sent to the Vatican.

“We had to provide a history of the parish, and we had to testify to the fact that this is a parish of vitality, that it is an active parish,” said the bishop. “Father George was the tour guide on the DVD.”

The bishop submitted the materials to the Vatican last summer, after receiving the necessary approval from Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, then president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“On Aug. 25 I sent a letter to Rome, and my answer came on May 3,” said Bishop Stika.