Church Building Bigger than St. Peter’s Cathedral Opens in Italy

( [email protected] ) Nov 12, 2003 10:10 AM EST

ROME - 10 years following its initial construction, a new basilica, bigger than the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome unofficially opened in San Giovanni Rotondo in southeast Italy, Nov. 9.

Built under the patronage of a foundation dedicated to the late Padre Pio, a much loved Italian priest who died in 1968 and canonized last year, the church can accommodate up to 6,500 people.

The first event in the building – a concert for people taking part in medical congress – was held on Sunday. The official inauguration for the basilica is slated for June 16, 2004.

"The building, which is still not decorated, will be inaugurated later," the foundation said.

The opening of the church was delayed several times due to technical difficulties related to the nearby epicenter.

The shell-shaped basilica is the work of celebrated architect Renzo Piano.