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Geelong Church's Basilica aspiration

St Mary of the Angels Church in the Victorian city of Geelong is hoping to gain Vatican approval to become Australia's fifth basilica.

The Age reports that the church, which turns 150 next month, is the country's largest parish church.

Parish priest Fr Kevin Dillon is hoping the honorary title will be conferred to coincide with the forthcoming completion of $3.5 million in restoration works.

Basilica status is granted by the Vatican to churches that have been deemed to be notably significant.

"This particular church building has such a standing in the Geelong community, and it seemed to fit all the criteria: architecture, history, its place in the Catholic history of the region and in the wider community," Fr Dillon said.

"Most people in Geelong would have been here. It's a gathering point at times of difficulty, such as after Bali and S-11."

To apply for the title, Father Dillon sent his application, which included 110 questions, to the apostolic delegate (Archbishop Canalini) in Canberra.

The Archbishop then passed it on to the Congregation of Sacred Rites in Rome.

It was endorsed by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, and local MPs.

Fr Dillon said the Vatican requested further information, "but the initial vibes are helpfully encouraging. But we can't guarantee that approval will come, let alone in time for the anniversary."

The archdiocese of Melbourne already has two of Australia's four basilicas: St Patrick's Cathedral and Our Lady of Victories at Camberwell. The other two are St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, and a church in Fremantle, in Western Australia.

Church pins its hopes on history (The Age 11/5/04)

$100,000 to restore Geelong church spire (CathNews 21/4/04)
St Mary of the Angels, Geelong | History / Construction
Australian Government Cultural Heritage Projects Program
Basilica (Catholic Encyclopedia)

11 May 2004