Friday after Ash Wednesday
Named for the martyrs of the fourth century, the Basilica of Sts. John and Paul is the stational church for this day of abstinence from meat. This ancient titular church finds itself together with two other titular churches on the quiet Celian Hill, 300 metres south of the Colosseum. Cardinal Edward Egan is the cardinal protector of the titular church, the fourth Archbishop of New York in a row to hold this post.
The basilica is dedicated to John and Paul, two wealthy brothers who served in Constantine’s court under his daughter Constantia. She converted them to Christianity and they would host Christian rites here in their home. When the emperor Julian came to power, he wanted them to deny their faith and embrace paganism. They refused and were martyed inside their home in 362. Today, they are still commemorated in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I).
In 398, Pammachius, a wealthy senator and a friend of Saint Jerome, had a basilica built over the home of these martyrs. Sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and flattened by an earthquake in 442, it has been restored several times, most recently by the late Cardinal Francis Spellman after he succeeded Eugeio Pacelli, who had been elected pope and taken the name Pius XII, as the Cardinal-Priest of the church.
Passionists proudly serve in the church, with their founder St. Paul of the Cross buried together with Saints John and Paul.