130th Anniversary of the Antonianum Basilica and Pontifical University


It is 130 years since the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua on the Esquiline and the Pontifical University, Antonianum were established. Also known as the basilica of St. Anthony at the Lateran because of its location close to the Lateran Basilica, the church was consecrated on December 4th, 1887 by the then Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Lucido Maria Parocchi. The anniversary of the consecration of the church and the founding of the university was recently marked with the celebration of Mass by the auxiliary bishop for Rome city centre, Gianrico Ruzza, with the rector of the basilica, Alfredo Silvestri and the vice-rector of the Pontifical Athenaeum, Agustín Hernández, concelebrating. The Rector of the Antonianum, Sr. Mary Melone, was also in attendance.

The church was built between 1884 and 1887 by the architect Luca Carimini. The Friars Minor had been forced to leave the historic seat of Santa Maria in Aracoeli at the Campidoglio, where they had been for 635 years (since 1250) in order to make way for the building of the national monument to Victor Emanuel II, better known in Italy as the Altare della Patria. A site close to the Lateran was chosen because of its connection to Pope Innocent III who gave verbal approval to the Rule of the Friars Minor. Innocent had had a dream in which Francis of Assisi supported the collapsing basilica of St. John Lateran, the mother of all churches.

On August 21st, 1931 Pius XI raised the church to the dignity of a Minor Basilica on the occasion of the seventh centenary of the death of St. Anthony. In the buildings attached to the basilica, apart from the Pontifical University, Antonianum, are the Gabriele Allegra fraternity and the Pontifical “Academia Mariana Internationalis”. The entire community of St. Anthony at the Lateran is made up of 160 Religious and students who come from all over the world. Bishop Ruzza dwelt on this in his homily when he spoke of “the wealth of diverse cultures” and spoke about being “struck by the sight of so many confreres from so many different countries, all united in harmony in the name of Francis of Assisi. This is so moving. Once more, Franciscanism is a powerful seed of renewal.”

Bishop Ruzza reflected on the reading of the day from the Gospel of Mark, in which the healing of the centurion’s servant, and the centurion’s total faith in the words and the authority of Christ is described. He asked himself whether the Word of God still “flows in the hearts of those who participate in the life of the community”, and whether people understand that daily life must start from and be based on the Gospel which can bring “enthusiasm and vitality”. In the light of this, he prayed that the community of St. Anthony at the Lateran might be a Church ready and able to go out and evangelise, with the Gospel in hand and heart.

“Be a Church ready to go out among the people, not being afraid to encounter different cultures”, said Bishop Ruzza. “A Church unafraid of finding itself in a multi-ethnic situation where most people are Chinese, Bengali, or African — recognising their cultural richness, and inviting them to journey together. Let the great cultural richness that you enjoy become fruitful, so that this centre may be at the service of the community which should benefit from the unity found among you.” The OFM Minister General, Br. Michael Perry, presented a commemorative parchment of blessing to Br. Alfredo Silvestri and to Sr. Mary Melone.

by Roberta Pumpo, published by romasette.it on December 4 2017