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Basilica - a term has two distinct meanings - one related to architecture signifies the stately edifice centered around the Forum for public gathering and administration at the Roman time. The second connotation for this term - Basilica - is canonical and a title conferred on important Roman Catholic Churches specifically by the Pope.
Basilicas are divided into 2 sections:
Major Basilicas or Patriarchal basilicas representing the ecclesiastical provinces :
Pope Benedict XVI has relinquished the traditional title 'Patriarch of the West' and as a result, these basilicas are simply known as Papal Basilicas.
Be that as it may, Basilicas must contain the body or relic of a Saint or that of a venerated image, or a prominent place of pilgrimage - though traditionally they must conform to a standard of classical architecture - east facing oblong shaped edifice with a broad nave ending in an apse.
The other section of Basilicas are Minor Basilicas which number 1744 (in the year 2016) spread across the world - major churches elevated to the status of minor basilicas specifically under a Papal Brief. There are some privileges conferred upon the basilicas which include the right of conopaeum - a kind of Umbrella called as Papilio and a Bell is carried in a procession on state occasions and the cappa magna - the vestments worn by members of the collegiate chapter when assisting at the office.
Interestingly most numbers of minor Basilicas are found in Italy - 569 while the rest of the predominantly Catholic nations retain a Lion's share: France, Spain and Portugal account for 302 Basilicas. USA has 82 while the comparatively tiny Austria has 32.
There are 22 minor basilicas in India ( as in the year 2016). The following table shows the basilicas in India :
Name of the Basilica
Vypin Island, Cochin
Jesus and Mother of Perpetual Help
It is apparent from the above table that the Pope Saint John Paul II had been instrumental in elevating the status of many churches to that of basilicas. Saint Pope John Paul II (born as Karol Jozef Wojtyła)- the longest reigned Pope of our time, often acclaimed as the most influential leader of the late 20th Century, the most widely traveled Pope of all time, recipient of so many accolades and honors including America's highest civilian honor - Presidential Medal of Freedom, was equally prolific in his encyclicals and apostolic letters as he was in conferring the status of basilicas to hundreds of churches throughout the world.
A closer inspection of the locations of the basilicas in India will show that 17 of these basilicas are located in South India - 8 in Kerala and 6 in Tamilnadu/Pondicherry. St.Francis Xavier has visited most of these basilicas from the south in his time - a feat considering the primitive state of transportation at that time.
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