Bishop Michael Sheridan will lead a small-group Year of Mercy pilgrimage to Rome next fall, and the itinerary includes attending Pope Francis’s Wednesday audience, walking through the Holy Doors of all four major basilicas, making an optional day trip to Assisi, exploring historical Rome, and attending the diaconate ordination Mass of seminarian Michael Holmquist.
Participants in Bishop Michael Sheridan’s Year of Mercy Pilgrimage to Italy Sept. 24-Oct. 1 will not only enter the Holy Doors of Rome’s four major basilicas, but plans are being made for the pilgrimage group to celebrate Mass at most, if not all, of them.
The four major basilicas of Rome are:
St. Peter’s Basilica: This is the most well known of the four, as it is the home church of Catholicism. The famous colonnade of Bernini around the square welcomes pilgrims like open arms. Ground was broken on the basilica in 1508 and it was completed 120 years later. St. Peter is the most visible part of the Vatican City State that surrounds it. Inside the basilica and underneath are relics and burial tombs of many saints and popes, including St. Peter. There is also a side altar on the main floor that contains the remains of St. John Paul II. During the pilgrimage, Bishop Sheridan will concelebrate the diaconate ordination Mass of diocesan seminarian Michael Holmquist at the Altar of the Chair behind the main altar. Next to the basilica are the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, the latter famous for its Michelangelo frescoes and for being the room where new popes are elected.
St. John Lateran Archbasilica: While many assume that St. Peter’s is the cathedral church of Rome, it is actually St. John Lateran. Located in the northwest section of Rome, St. John Lateran is the official seat of the bishop of Rome, who is also the pope. St. John Lateran is also the oldest of the four major basilicas, with the original structure (since mostly reconstructed) dating back to 324 A.D.
St. Paul Outside the Walls: Also originally constructed in the 4th century, St. Paul Outside the Walls was built over the place where St. Paul was buried after his execution in 67 AD. It is known for its neo-classical façade of Roman columns and arches, erected in the 19th century.
St. Mary Major: This basilica is the largest church in Rome dedicated to Our Lady. The sanctuary contains the famous icon of Salus Populi Romani, which means Mary Protector of the Roman People. One of Pope Francis’ first acts as pontiff was to visit St. Mary Major to pray before this icon. The basilica also features the stunning Borghese Chapel, where Bishop Sheridan plans to celebrate a Mass for pilgrims.