Today St George’s basilica is in solemn vest. It celebrates the dedication of St John’s Lateran basilica in Rome but, unlike other churches, St George’s is one of the few historic churches that are joined to the Roman basilica in a special way. This special way refers to the liturgical calendar, the divine wealth and the heraldic privileges by which the Lateran mother enriched its spiritual daughter in Gozo.
The aggregation of St George’s basilica with what was then still styled the first patriarchal basilica of Rome happened in 1967 on the request of the then Apostolic Administration for the diocese of Gozo, HE Mgr Nikol Cauchi. The privilege was given on the basis of an alleged connection that existed since the early Byzantine age between Rome and Gaulos pOpidum, the town of Gozo.
According to a mediaeval source, the island of Gozo is said to have been included in the donation that the first Christian emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great, was said to have made in part to Pope Melchiades (AD311-314) and in part to Pope Sylvester (AD314-335).
St George’s basilica enjoys a number of incidental similarities with the Lateran basilica. For example, like the Roman basilica, St George’s rises on a site rich with pagan remains. These remains not only point to the existence of a Roman temple that seems to have had ritual connections with the military barracks, but also to the earliest Christian church on the island. It is a proven fact that it was beneath St George’s basilica and in its environs that the earliest archaeological evidence of Gozitan Christianity was unearthed.
Concelebrated Mass will be held later on today at 5.30pm.