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The United States has long and appropriately been referred to as the “great melting pot” as a place where people from many diverse lands and customs have come to dwell.  The Basilica is a microcosm of this phenomenon, honoring devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary from around the world, which the generations of our immigrant population have sustained.

On October 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II, the first reigning Pope ever to visit the Basilica, proclaimed in the Great Upper Church:

“This Shrine speaks to us with the voice of all America, with the voice of all the sons and daughters of America, who have come here from the various countries of the Old World.  When they came, they brought with them in their hearts the same love for the Mother of God that was characteristic of their ancestors and of themselves in their native lands.  These people, speaking different languages, coming from different backgrounds of history and traditions in their own countries, came together around the heart of a Mother they all had in common.  While their faith in Christ made all of them aware of being one People of God, this awareness became all the more vivid through the presence of the Mother in the work of Christ and the Church.”

The Basilica exemplifies the “catholicity” or universality of the Church, while echoing its unity and inclusiveness.  The many chapels and oratories personify the cultural diversity of the United States and reverence that virtue which they have in common, faith.

Among the nationalities represented in the Basilica’s chapels are African, Austrian, Byzantine-Ruthenian, Chinese, Cuban, Czech, Filipino, French, German, Guamanian, Indian, Irish, Italian, Korean, Latin American, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian, and Vietnamese.

Among the religious communities represented in the Basilica are the Augustinians, Carmelites, Claretians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Montfort Missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Redemptorists, Salesians, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Providence, and Vincentians.

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