The upper church of St. Anne Roman Catholic Church in Port Richmond, which holds a relic of the woman whom Christians believe to be the Virgin Mary’s mother, has been designated an archdiocesan shrine. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Friday that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput had elevated the sanctuary.
Pilgrims have visited the sanctuary to venerate the relic for over a century. In 1898, the Rev. Thomas J. Barry, then pastor, traveled to Rome and obtained a part of St. Anne’s wrist bone, archdiocesan officials said in a statement. An oak shrine housing the reliquary where the bone is kept was dedicated in 1899 and replaced with a marble one in 1909.
St. Anne is not mentioned in the Bible, but the parents of Mary — Joachim and Anne — are discussed in the Gospel of James, an unsanctioned writing from the second century. Such writings are not recognized as inspired scripture, said the Rev. Allan Fitzgerald, a professor of historical theology and director of the Augustinian Institute at Villanova University.
“There is no biblical account, but there is no debate that Mary had parents,” Fitzgerald said. “As far as we know, the mother of Mary was called Anne.”
Although the historical background may be unclear, "that doesn’t change the fact that we have faith in the saints,” Fitzgerald said.