Question about St. Peter's Basillica

Hello, everybody!

  I've got a challenging question for you!  My husband and I were discussing this the other day and neither one of us could figure it out, so here you go. 

  Everybody has a home church.  My home church is Immaculate Conception.  My daughter was baptised there, she will go to CCD there, and receive her first Communion there.  So here's the question:  Does St. Peter's Basillica in Rome allow people to make that particular church their "home church?"  Surely to goodness the Pope doesn't marry people or say a first Communion Mass, right?  He's too busy for that I would assume.  My husband said that maybe the cardinals there attend to the parishioners who need those services.

  Really, though, wouldn't that be wild?  To be able to say that your parish priest is THE POPE would be something else, to say the least.

  Lemme know what y'all know.  :cool: 


I don’t think St. Peter’s Basilica is a parish church as such. The Pope’s parish church - his Cathedral, actually - is St. John Lateran.

An interesting question… a couple of points need to be made.

  1. St. Peter’s Basilica is NOT the home church of the pope! As Bishop of Rome, it is, in fact, the Basilica (Cathedral) of St. John Lateran. Although the pope resides at the Vatican, he is required, like any other bishop, required to say Mass at the cathedral (although he’s so busy, he only does so occasionally).

  2. Vatican City is its own diocese, I believe, but not many people are members of it. Primarily, its the Swiss Guard and their families, and some Augustinian friars. However… the members of the Vatican diocese do not have St. Peters OR the Sistine Chapel as their parish. They go to the little known St. Anne’s Church, which is it’s own parish JUST inside the gates of Vatican City. If you want to have the sacraments at the Vatican, this is generally where it would be possible. Even ordinary people can get married or baptized here, if you give them enough advance notice, although you’ll need some substantial connections. It’s not impossible though. Also, as the parish church of Vatican City, it’s generally closed to tourists since its always being used for Mass and smaller events (although if you ask the Swiss Guard, they’ll usually be nice enough to let you in for a brief look if nothing is going on.) It’s a remarkably beautiful church in its own right, and is one of the hidden gems of the Vatican.

Hey, y’all!

  Thanks for your answers.  I didn't know about St. John Lateran's and St. Anne's Parishes.  I've never been to Rome, so I guess wouldn't know.  I also forgot about the Swiss guards; they have to go to church somewhere, too, as you mentioned.  It's always fun to learn new things, esp. about your faith.


Hi rolltide,

Vatican City is its own diocese, I believe

That statement is nearly heretical! There is one diocesan bishop in Rome and that is the pope! As stated above, the residents of the Vatican have their own parish … in the diocese of Rome.

The pope does have a cardinal-bishop to actually take care of the diocese of Rome in the pope’s name.


I don’t know if the Vatican is a different diocese. In fact, I don’t think it is. I think it is part of the Diocese of Rome. How can the Pope be the Bishop of two dioceses? Unless their is a Bishop of the Vatican which would be awkward. :slight_smile:

It is my understanding that his See as Bishop of Rome is at St. John Lateran. His See as Vicar of Christ is at St. Peter’s. In essence he wears two hats.

What I do know is that St. Peter’s is a parish. I went on a pilgrimage to Rome with a Priest who was educated there and gave tours of the Vatican to visitors from our diocese while he was in seminary. There are actually people who call St. Peter’s their home parish.

Every Catholic lives in a Catholic parish, and is registered in a parish church. Every Diocese has a Cathedral Church which is the Bishops church, usually they also serve as a parish church. The Pope being Bishop of Rome has a Cathedral church which is St. John Lateran. He does celebrate Marriages, Ordinations, First Communions, Baptisms and hear Confessions there from time to time. There is a Cardinal that handles the day to day business of the Cathedral church for the Pope. St. Peters is neither the popes Cathedral or a parish church. It is a special major Basilica church.

I know the original question was about “home church” so I guess that’s fine. But we are accustomed to think of a home church (in the local sense) as a parish and that isn’t always the case.

Some people will use a monastery as their home church, most monasteries have their own ‘regulars’ that have been attending for years. There are other chapels and oratories that can be a home church equally as well, Newman centers are like that, and embassy chapels during times of persecution (at one time the only legal RC Masses in England were at the embassies of Portugal and France in London, and possibly some others).

One must be careful when discussing ‘parishes’ because in some parts of the Mediterranean church the diocesan system predates the concept of parish. The diocese was like one big parish, which gives us a clue to the rise and growth of the ecclesia in ancient times. This is why in many parts of Italy the duomo (cathedral) would have a large baptistry (like that tower in Pisa), everyone in the diocese would be expected to come to the cathedral at the main square of the town for the life-event sacraments like baptism and confirmation. Hence the local ‘parishes’ are not parishes at all, and they don’t have bounderies, they just serve traditional neighborhoods and their ‘public’ easily overlaps that of other local churches. Your church in such a case is the one you choose.

The parish system arose in the outer reaches of Christianity, like transalpine Gaul for instance, because the dioceses had to be so large in the wildernesses of the north and not only the bishop might take years to get around to every village and town, but it might be years before the common folk could be down the road in the direction of the cathedral as well. ‘Parishes’ are much more self-sufficient, like satellite dioceses, offering baptisms right there for example, and keeping their own records. It’s the system most of the west, but not all of it, uses today.


St. Peter’s is a major Basilica as is St. Mary Major and St. Paul outside the walls. However, they are all also parishes.

I called the Priest who was with me on pilgrimage, went to seminary in Rome and conducted tours of the Vatican. He absolutely assured me that St. Peter’s is also a parish, they have parishioners, have First Communions and do parish activities. It is his recollection that most of the parishioners are employees like those who are in the choirs or otherwise are permanent residents of Vatican City. He said that St. Anne’s parish caters more to the laity who are employees of the Vatican and are more transigent.

A parish is as defined in the CC: A stable community of the faithful within a particular church or diocese, whose pastoral care is confided by a Bishop to priest as pastor.

Practically, a parish is a community assigned a priest as pastor or rector that has a church that performs Baptisms, Mass, Penance, and Confirmations.

Just the other day, the Pope named Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of St. Peter’s basilica and vicar general for Vatican City.

I tried to find other information on the net that would confirm what my Priest friend told me. This is the best I could find on their website (separate from the vatican website)

St Peter’s
St. Peter’s Basilica
Hours: Apr-Sep 7:00-19:00; Oct-Mar 7:00-18:00
Sacristy (011) 39 06 6988 3712
**Parish Office (011) 39 06 6988 5435 **
Vatican Switchboard (011) 39 06 6982

As usual I’m speaking from an American point of view. Even if a person is a regular attendee at a shrine, monastery, or other non-parish church they are supposed to still be registered in the parish church in the parish in which they live or some other parish church. A Catholic can attend Mass at any Catholic church in union with the Holy See.

I was under the understanding that St. Peters was not a parish church. I could be wrong.

the only reason that I remembered it from Rome was because I was surprised that there would actually be a parish in that huge place.

My Priest friend could be wrong too but the website using the word parish sure suggests it. I don’t think the Vatican would allow a misuse of this important term so close to them in such a public venue.

But on reflection it makes sense. Every church has parishioners (otherwise it would be a chapel). And, it speaks to the universality of the Church. I think now it would be odder if it wasn’t a parish.

My understanding was that St. Peter’s was a ‘universal’ church…that all members of the faith have a ‘claim’ of membership…if one can use the term…to St. Peter’s…the people’s church…

As such, I understand that any catholic who wants to be married there can. I assume that scheduling is probably an issue and costs, organizing etc. The American Church in Rome [St. Susanna’s] will help American catholics with information and arrangements. You have to start with your home parish and diocese. All the normal paper work has to be completed with recommendations [approvals] and forwarded to Rome.

I have a friend whose brother was married in St. Peter’s. [before I knew them though so I have no first hand knowledge about all of the arrangements and how hard it was to accomplish…]

Couples married either at St. Peter’s or at any church in Rome can attend the Wednesday audience with the Pope [during the week that are married] as long as they wear their wedding clothes . At the end of the audience, they receive a papal blessing.

In October of 2000, we saw approximately 80 couples seated in a special section to the left of Pope John Paul II in St Peter’s Square [appproximately 50,000 people were there that day for the Audience - Jubilee 2000] At the end of the audience the dignitaries present [seated to the right side] approached the Pope…when the dignitaries were done the married couples approached [one couple at a time] knelt down and recieved a blessing. Seemed very cool to me…the wedding gowns and tuxedos…very impressive…what a wedding memory that must be! :thumbsup:

In order to be able to celebrate your wedding in Rome in the sumptuous St. Peter’s Basilica, precise rules and regulations must be followed. For example, the days during which wedding celebrations are permitted are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m. It is also useful to know that the chapel seats 100 and another 100 may stand, for a total of 200 guests.

Couples who wish to marry in the Cappella del Coro in St. Peter’s must have their parish priest send a letter in which the priest consents to the couple’s marrying in St. Peter’s and explicitly requests that they may be married there; the letter must also indicate the wedding date and time. Naturally, date and time must be previously agreed upon with the St. Peter’s parish.

There are also specific regulations to be followed for the decorations. The music and the flowers (with the exception of the bridal bouquet and lapel flowers, which may be provided by Regency) must be supplied by the St. Peter’s parish. Generally, external musicians and florists are not accepted. On the other hand, the photographic service may be assigned to the photographer of one’s choice - who must however be authorized by the St. Peter’s parish.

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