BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Little Italy’s Most Precious Blood Church officially has been severed from the nearby Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral — and that’s a good thing, according to some advocates for the former.
On Jan. 4, leading members of the Most Precious Blood congregation — including John Fratta, Vivian Catanacio and Emily DePalo — issued a statement, thanking Cardinal Timothy Dolan for the development.
Three days earlier, Dolan, the archbishop of New York had issued “a decree rescinding the merger of the territorial parish of the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the personal parish of Most Precious Blood,” the statement said. “Cardinal Dolan has graciously returned the parish to her rightful owners: namely, the parishioners of the Little Italy Community in New York City.
“Most Precious Blood Parish was built in the early 1890s by our Italian ancestors because, at that time, they were not welcome at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral and had to attend Mass in the basement. So, these poor, uneducated, but proud and skilled Italians built their own parish.”
The two houses of worship are about an 11-minute walk apart from each other.
Most Precious Blood is the National Shrine of Saint Gennaro a.k.a. San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples. This year the Feast of San Gennaro will celebrate its 98th year with a High Mass on Sept. 19, the Feast Day of Saint Gennaro. The church contains a relic of the saint, who was martyred by the Romans — a vial of his dried blood.
“Millions of people from all over the world come to Most Precious Blood to celebrate Saint Gennaro and marvel at this beautiful parish with its frescoes and statues of saints, original portraits, especially knowing the history,” the statement said, adding, “We invite everyone to celebrate the return of our beloved parish with us.”
Since 1996 Figli di San Gennaro, the annual festival’s organizer, has donated thousands of dollars to Most Precious Blood Church. This year, following another successful feast, the group is set to donate $50,000 toward the support of Most Precious Blood, “to be used in any way necessary.”
“We thank God and Cardinal Dolan for answering our prayers at a time when so many churches are being closed around us,” the statement said.
Apparently, though, there are questions about whether the historic church, in fact, is up for sale — the thinking being that ending the 10-year-old merger between the two houses of worship actually might be opening the door to that possibility.
According to Our Town, “The Friends of Most Precious Blood, a recently formed not for profit, were said to be worried that the dissolution of the merger was a step toward selling the church property and ending the parish.”
However, Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese’s spokesperson, told that newspaper, “The building is not for sale.”