Historic first mass in Spanish at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


Mgr. Christophe Pierre, during homily. (imagen por: Jesus V Picon)

Monsignor Christophe Pierre, along with 13 other archbishops and bishops from the US, presided over a historic celebration on April 27. For the first time in history, at the National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, a mass in Spanish was celebrated on the main altar. Until now, they were only celebrated in the crypt of the sanctuary.

"Hispanics have literally come out of the crypt," Elisabeth Roman, president of the National Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), explained to Aleteia. "It was not easy, until now the masses in Spanish were celebrated only in the crypt. I see with that mass how the Lord is taking the Hispanic people from the crypt to the main temple, where we can celebrate, sing in our language."

"We are very grateful to the Apostolic Nuncio, who has made this celebration possible. From the first moment with the celebration of the Roots and Wings Congress he did not stop supporting us and praying with us. With everything that has happened, I am sure that this Congress It will mean a rebirth, a before and after of Hispanic ministry in this country".

A temple symbol of American Catholicism

This imposing sanctuary began to be projected in the mid-19th century, although the first stone of its construction was laid in 1920.

It was the then Archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal James Gibbons, who began construction of the massive sanctuary, affectionately known as "the Catholic Church of America."

It was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, whom the bishops had asked to declare patron saint of the country in 1846. This wish was granted the following year by Pope Saint Pius X, who also made a generous donation to build the sanctuary.

With its imposing façade and its beautiful Byzantine-style golden mosaic interior, the Basilica is truly a symbol of American Catholicism. It has two imposing domes, dedicated to the Incarnation and the Redemption; and also contains the largest collection of sacred art in the world.

The works were completed in 1959; and since then, the temple has been visited by important personalities. Among them, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who felt great affection for the Shrine.

John Paul II was the first Pope to visit it in 1979. Benedict XVI did so in 2009, and Francis in 2015.

a member

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Washington DC.

Historical celebration

The mass in Spanish was celebrated on April 27, within the framework of the 6th Roots and Wings congress of Hispanic ministry held in Washington DC. A congress that, also for the first time in its history, was attended by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and CELAM.

In his homily, Nuncio Monsignor Christophe Pierre highlighted the importance of Hispanics for the future of the North American Church: "The Hispanic ministry must put its gifts and charisms in favor of the new evangelization of the United States."

In addition, this congress had an important connection with the process of the Synod of synodality; because the conclusions of the Hispanic pastoral will reach Rome directly as part of the contribution of the American Church to the synodal process. In fact, Cardinal Mario Grech, personal secretary of the Synod, and undersecretary Nathalie Becquart connected via live streaming with the sessions of the Roots and Wings Congress to personally assess the work carried out.

Hispanic ministry in the US thus becomes an outpost and a reference for the Church in the entire American continent.


by Inma Álvarez

scalabrinian spirituality 2023


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