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Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 121 E. Duval St.

Immaculate Conception elevated to Minor Basilica

From Staff

A Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of the elevation of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to the status of a Minor Basilica is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the church, 121 E. Duval St.

Bishop Felipe J. Estévez will be the chief celebrant along with other priests of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

To receive the designation of a minor basilica, a church must be a center of active and pastoral liturgy with a vibrant Catholic community and have unique historical, artistic or religious importance.

In May, the diocese made the request and submitted the necessary documentation for the designation through the Holy See's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

"Immaculate Conception was granted this designation because of its historical and spiritual significance to the Diocese of St. Augustine and its worthiness of art and architecture," said Estévez in a news release.

The oldest Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Immaculate Conception was established Dec. 8, 1854. A casualty of the Civil War, Union soldiers burned and pillaged the church in 1863. A new brick church was built and dedicated in 1873.

In 1901, along with most of Jacksonville, the parish complex was destroyed by the Great Fire. Bishop William J. Kenny, a former pastor of Immaculate Conception for whom Jacksonville's Bishop Kenny High School was named, was instrumental in the rebuilding of both the church and of Downtown.

Immaculate Conception is the 77th minor basilica in the United States, the second in the Diocese of St. Augustine and the sixth in Florida.

The other minor basilicas in Florida, in order of their rank in the United States are: Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine (26th), Basilica of St. Paul in Daytona Beach (57th), Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando (63rd), Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in Pensacola (71st) and the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West (72nd).

A basilica is a church granted special privileges by the Vatican. Most are minor basilicas, but a few of special importance are designated major basilicas.

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