Today we commemorate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome which is the cathedral church of the city of Rome, and by extension, the world. The cathedral in any diocese has a special significance because it’s the place where the bishop has his cathedra or chair. Now the chair used to be very significant and full of symbolism. In days gone by only a king, a judge, or a teacher sat on a chair, everyone else stood or sat on the floor or on a bench or a stool. The chair used to be a symbol of power and authority, and in the case of a bishop the authority to teach. And until recently, it was common for popes and bishops to preach sitting down.
The Lateran Basilica is the first church to be publicly consecrated. The Lateran family donated the land on which the cathedral is built and it was consecrated on 9th November 324. That day also marked the end of the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. So today is a day of great significance not only for Catholics but for all Christians.
There are many church buildings throughout the world that invite people to come inside to pray and to find peace. Here in our own chapel, as in any great basilica or cathedral, we read the same Scriptures, we offer the same worship and we serve the same God. Our churches welcome all and they quietly call us to unity.
We worship in a holy place, a place made holy because it is set aside for the worship of God and nothing else. And this is just one of many holy places throughout the world of which the Lateran Basilica is Mother and head. Today we commemorate more than the dedication of a building made of bricks and mortar. Rather we commemorate the continuing dedication of a living structure, a living temple of God: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.