Pope Francis changes statutes of papal basilica, emphasizing work of canons


The basilica has been an important place for Pope Francis, who prays there before the icon before and after all his apostolic journeys

Vatican City: (By Matthew Santucci for CNA) Pope Francis on Wednesday issued new regulations for the administration of the papal Basilica of St. Mary Major, placing new emphasis on spiritual work and pastoral care and appointing a coadjutor archpriest of the West’s oldest Marian shrine. 

In the March 20 chirograph, or papal decree, the Holy Father explained that he sought to “free” the “canons,” (members of the group or “chapter” of clergy he designates to serve the basilica) “from all economic and administrative duties, so that they may dedicate themselves, fully and with renewed vigor, to the spiritual and pastoral accompaniment” of pilgrims.

In December 2021 Pope Francis appointed Lithuanian-born Archbishop Rolandas Makrickas as the extraordinary commissioner to undertake the commissioning process “for the reorganization of the life of the chapter and the basilica, for the greater good of the people of God.” 

This process, led by an extraordinary commissioner and assisted by a special commission, looked at the administrative functioning of the basilica, including a study of the basilica’s financial situation. 

The Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as the Liberian Basilica, is one of the four papal basilicas of Rome and home to the relic of the Holy Cradle and the icon of Salus Populi Romani, a Byzantine icon attributed to St. Luke depicting the Madonna and Child Jesus holding a Gospel book.

The basilica has been an important place for Pope Francis, who prays there before the icon before and after all his apostolic journeys. 

In December 2023, in an interview with Mexican television program “N+”, the pope expressed his desire to be buried in the basilica, not in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

In his chirograph, the pope appointed Makrickas as the coadjutor archpriest of St. Mary Major, with the right to succeed 78-year-old Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, who has served as archpriest since 2016. 

The archpriest is traditionally a cardinal who serves a five-year renewable term, exercising “executive power of government for the activities of the basilica itself and for the administration of the chapter’s assets,” and is the legal representative of the basilica. 

The statue also created two new positions: the delegate for pastoral care, who is the archpriest’s first collaborator for the activities of the canons and the basilica and works in close collaboration with the master of ceremonies and the delegate for administration, who oversees the administrative tasks of the basilica. 

Makrickas will continue to cover the duties of these two roles until those positions are appointed.

The new statute also established a new administrative council, which will be tasked with administration of the chapter’s assets. According to Article 48 of the new statutes, the administrative council is composed of the archpriest, the two delegates, a representative of the governorate of the Vatican City State, and a representative of the Administration of the Heritage of the Apostolic See (APSA).


Matthew Santucci is a CNA Rome correspondent based in EWTN's Vatican bureau. He grew up in Connecticut and has been living in Rome since 2020. He has a B.A. in History from Fordham and an M.A. in International Relations from Luiss Guido Carli.

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