Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica –  John 2: 13-22

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the oldest and highest ranking of the four major basilicas in Rome. The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, the official ecclesiastical seat of the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, not St. Peter’s Basilica as so many mistakenly believe.

Built in the time of Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324 originally to Christ the Redeemer but after destruction by an earthquake in 896 A.D., the church was rebuilt by Pope Sergius III, who dedicated it to St. John the Baptist. In ancient Rome this was the church where everyone was baptized.

It was during the reign of the Emperor Constantine that the laws restricting the practice of the Church’s faith were removed from Roman law and the Church went from being an illegal cult, whose profession of faith was considered an act of treason, to being the favoured religion of the Roman emperor.

The present basilica stands on the site of an ancient palace on the Caelian Hill (one of the famous seven hills) of Rome which formerly belonged to the family of the Laterani. This palace was part of the dowry of Fausta, the wife of the Emperor Constantine; and, Constantine gave it to the Church when he converted a portion of the Laterani palace to serve as the papal residence.

Today the liturgy celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” Initially the observance of this feast was confined to the city of Rome; then, beginning in 1565, it was extended to all the Churches of the Roman rite as a sign of love for and union with the See of Peter.

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