· Vatican City ·

Pope Francis approves new Statutes and Regulations for the Chapter of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major

 Pope Francis approves new Statutes and Regulations  for the Chapter of the Basilica of Saint Mary ...
22 March 2024

With a Chirograph, Pope Francis has approved the new Statutes and Regulations for the Chapter of the Liberian Basilica and entrusted Archbishop Rolandas Makrickas with all the faculties to apply the new norms until a new Administrative Council is established.

In his Chirograph released on Wednesday, 20 March, the Pope “frees” the canons from all economic and administrative responsibilities, appointing Archbishop Makrickas as the new coadjutor Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

Following the commissioning process assigned to Archbishop Makrickas, who was appointed as the Extraordinary Commissioner in December 2021, Pope Francis completed the restructuring of the Basilica he has visited over a hundred times and where he hopes to be buried someday.

A Rescript published by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, outlines the new duties of the canons (priests belonging to the Basilica’s Chapter), the documents of the new Statute and Regulations, and the appointment of Archbishop Makrickas, “with the right of succession”.

In his chirograph, Pope Francis recalled having entrusted Archbishop Makrickas, assisted by a special Commission, with the task of reordering the Chapter and the Basilica, “for the greater good of the people of God”.

For centuries, the Chapter has safeguarded the treasures of Saint Mary Major — such as the icon of the Salus Populi Romani (to which the Pope entrusts every Apostolic Journey abroad) and the relic of the Holy Crib — overseen the decorum of liturgical celebrations, and welcomed the faithful making pilgrimages to the basilica.

“Today, at the end of the commissioning process”, wrote the Pope, “I deem it appropriate to relieve the Canons from any economic and administrative responsibilities, so they can fully and with renewed vigor dedicate themselves to the spiritual and pastoral accompaniment that pilgrims from all over the world seek and hope to find, crossing the threshold of the first Marian Shrine of the West”.

The Pope also approved the Statute and Regulations, which he said were drafted “inspired by the principles and criteria of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium”, and conferred on Archbishop Makrickas “all the necessary faculties for the moderation and application of the new norms and for the governance of the Chapter”.

The Holy Father further decreed that the new Coadjutor Archpriest “continue to exercise legal representation” and retain “the power to carry out acts of ordinary and extraordinary administration”.

This will continue until the establishment of an Administrative Council — a new entity set up by the Statute — which, as stated in article 48, will be entrusted with the management of the Chapter’s assets.

The Pope also assigned Archbishop Makrickas “the duties pertaining to the Vicar of the Archpriest, the Delegate for Pastoral Care, and the Delegate for Administration, until their respective appointments”.

These two roles are new additions to the Basilica’s organizational chart. In particular, the Delegate for Pastoral Care will be the first collaborator of the Archpriest for the activities of the Canons and Saint Mary Major, working closely with the Master of Ceremonies, coordinating services related to pastoral care and ceremonies.

The two delegates, along with the Archpriest who presides over them, will compose the Administrative Council, with a representative from the Governorate of Vatican City State and a representative from the apsa (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See).

All members, it is noted, will serve for five years and may be reappointed; their mandate will end with the approval of the financial statement for the last fiscal year.

The sessions of the Administrative Council can be held in person or remotely as needed. It meets, upon the Archpriest’s summons, at least twice a year and whenever there is a motivated request from at least three of its members. In the Archpriest’s absence, meetings of the Administrative Council are chaired by the Delegate for Administration.

The Council also “plans, deliberates, and verifies the strategic administration lines of the Chapter”, giving directives and mandates: to the apsa for the management of the Chapter’s income-producing real estate entrusted to it according to the specific Agreement; to the Delegate for Administration for the management of the remaining assets and for the activities of the Basilica.

The Council will annually determine the amount of remuneration to be paid to clerics, religious and laypeople who work for the Chapter or the Basilica. And, after receiving the budget and account, it prepares the annual Budgets (projected and final) in the ways and terms established by the Secretariat for the Economy.

Among the other main innovations of the Statute is one concerning the canons and coadjutors of the Chapter who have reached or will reach the age of 80.

At that age, they will assume the status of Honorary Canons and Honorary Coadjutors and, as long as health and self-sufficiency conditions allow, “will retain the use of the apartment they already enjoy, the title of Protonotary Apostolic Supernumerary, and their own vestments”.

Honorary Coadjutors will enjoy a reduced rent and, together with Honorary Canons, may “continue in the voluntary liturgical-pastoral activity in the Basilica” and “continue to receive the chapter allowance”. They may also “take advantage of the possibility of burial in the Canon’s Cemetery”.

Honorary Canons are “exempted from all obligations” towards the Chapter and, consequently, “do not participate in the Chapter Sessions”.

The same provisions also apply to those Canons and Coadjutors who, although not yet 80 years old, “have for a long time not attended liturgical celebrations and do not participate in Chapter Sessions”.

Additionally, the Pope’s Chirograph eliminates the Chapter Coadjutors but introduces the possibility to invite priests to assist the Chapter in extraordinary cases.

Finally, according to the new provisions, the Master of the Liberian Musical Chapel must be chosen from among directors of renowned fame. The renewable contract will have a duration of five years. (S. Cernuzio)

By Salvatore Cernuzio