On Sunday, April 10, 2005, Cardinal William H. Keeler celebrated a Memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II in his titular Church in Rome, the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and Martyrs. Pope John Paul II named Cardinal Keeler as titular of the basilica when he elevated the Cardinal to the College of Cardinals in November, 1994.
It has long been a tradition in the Church that cardinals are given title to one of the churches in Rome. It represents a close tie to the city and to the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father. It also maintains refers back to the ancient tradition that the clergy of Rome would elect their bishop. One of the responsibilities of the Pope is to serve as Bishop of Rome.
Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) is significant for its history, art, architecture and use. The church was designed by Michelangelo in 1560. There are two churches in Rome are associated with Michelangelo: St. Peter’s Basilica and Santa Maria degli Angeli.
The church is on the site of the hot baths of the notorious persecutor of Christians, the emperor Diocletian. The baths were constructed by Christian slave labor. Pope Pius IV, who is buried near the church’s altar, had the church built as a way of showing the Church’s triumph over paganism and imperialism.
Michelangelo’s design, which includes a huge cross—shaped interior, incorporates the ruins of the baths which date back to third-century Rome. Large windows around the ceiling illuminate the cavernous church. Michelangelo also kept the eight huge, red granite Egyptian monoliths to serve as pillars for the church. Corinthian-styled capitals are found throughout.
Baroque qualities were added to the church in the 18th century. However, the church’