Catholic Church

Antipolo Cathedral elevated as first international shrine in PH, Southeast Asia

Lance Arevada

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Antipolo Cathedral elevated as first international shrine in PH, Southeast Asia

VIVA LA VIRGEN. The image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage is crowned in a symbolic rite of coronation as part of the solemn declaration of the Antipolo Cathedral as an international shrine on January 26.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Antipolo FB Page

In a historic celebration, pilgrims, officials, and prelates come together in Antipolo to witness the solemn declaration of the 450-year-old cathedral, home of the image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage

ANTIPOLO, Philippines – As a renowned pilgrimage site for people seeking safety in their travels, the Antipolo Cathedral  reached a historic peak in its own centuries-old journey, having been elevated as the first Catholic international shrine in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and only the 11th worldwide.

The 450-year-old cathedral, home of the image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, was formally declared an international shrine in a solemn mass presided by Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown on Friday, January 26.

Friday’s ceremony completed the Antipolo Cathedral’s elevation process which started with a 2023 Vatican decree.

The shrine’s grounds and the nearby Sumulong Park celebrated a one-of-a-kind feast as devotees of the Virgin of Antipolo and over 80 bishops across the country — led by Bishop Ruperto Santos and Auxiliary Bishop Nolly Buco of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antipolo — took part in the event.

The celebration started with a procession of the image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in the cathedral grounds, followed by a symbolic rite of coronation for the image led by Brown and Santos. 

A solemn mass then commenced, with Antipolo Bishop Emeritus Francis de Leon and Reverend Monsignor Bernardo Pantin, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), reading the Latin and English text of the Vatican decree.

First Lady Louise Araneta-Marcos was among those who attended the mass, along with local officials, including Antipolo City Mayor Jun Ynares and Rizal Governor Nina Ynares. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and Madrigal Singers also served as choir of the signficant rite.

‘Mother of migrants’

In his homily, the Papal Nuncio highlighted the Antipolo Cathedral’s elevation as an international shrine as a testament of the “internationality of the Philippine Catholic Church,” pointing out the Virgin of Antipolo’s role for migrants praying for safety in their travels.

“You have been gifted to give and you’re giving that gift all over the world – and our Lady here in Antipolo is really the mother of that gift, because that gift is Jesus,” he said, linking the diaspora of Filipinos worldwide to the evangelization of the Roman Catholic faith.

The nuncio also emphasized the significance of the Virgin to the experience of millions of overseas Filipino workers coming to Antipolo to seek care and affection, as he called on bishops and officials present to uphold their dignity.

Meanwhile, Antipolo Bishop Santos expressed his gratitude for the solemn declaration of the international shrine as “the gift of the Philippine Church to the whole world,” where they are now called upon to lead the more than 3 million faithful in the diocese in accordance with Mary’s teachings.

“We discern this memorable and momentous day as an overflowing grace from God. It is now our calling to live the fiat (Mary’s response of “Let it be done”) of our Blessed Mother Mary, to lead our flock, our people to acclaim her magnificat (hymn of praise) and to learn to stand at the foot of the Cross,” he said.

Following the cathedral’s elevation, Santos further called on the clergy to make the shrine as Mary’s house for love, charity, and compassion as their primary mission moving forward.

The bishop said, “Let this be our house, and her house, her shrine of charity and compassion that for her children – especially the vulnerable and the voiceless, especially for migrants, fishers, and seafarers, especially for women –  that here they can experience, the love of God, the charity of God, the compassion of God starting from us.”

Bishop Ruperto Santos and Auxiliary Bishop Nolly Buco of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antipolo present the Latin text of the Papal decree for the declaration of Antipolo Cathedral as an international shrine during the mass. Photo from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antipolo FB Page
‘Hail, Queen of Peace’

To mark the historic occasion, the diocese unveiled the theme “Ave Regina Pacis” (in Latin, “Hail, Queen of Peace”), highlighting the celebration’s significance to the Virgin of Antipolo.

“As a ‘Pueblo amante de Maria’ – a people in love with Mary – we recognize the remarkable value of this celebration not only for the Diocese of Antipolo, but for the whole Church at large,” the diocese said in its celebration primer.

The church was first completely built in 1632, which was meant to serve as a shrine for the Virgin of Antipolo first brought by Governor General Juan Niño de Tabora from Acapulco, Mexico. A local tree called “tipulo” is located in its site, where the image is said to be usually found when it suddenly disappears, said the primer.

Despite suffering from several damage from earthquakes, the shrine became a popular pilgrimage site during the Spanish period, in which even the young Jose Rizal and his father, Francisco Mercado, were among its pilgrims according to the Antipolo Cathedral website.

The Antipolo church was then declared as a national shrine in 1954, following post-war efforts to rebuild its structure. It went on to become a cathedral in 1983, along with the establishment of the Diocese of Antipolo.

‘Ahon sa Antipolo’: Faithful prepare for pilgrimage site’s historic event

‘Ahon sa Antipolo’: Faithful prepare for pilgrimage site’s historic event

The cathedral further gained popularity as a pilgrimage site among devotees for its “Alay Lakad” tradition every Maundy Thursday and up until July, where devotees disembark upward – or what they call as “ahon” to pray and give thanks to the Virgin of Antipolo.

In 2021, the CBCP endorsed the diocese’s petition to raise the Antipolo Cathedral’s status to an international shrine. The Holy See approved the petition in June 2022, with a papal decree being issued in March 2023.

The CBCP endorsed the diocese’s petition in 2021 to elevate the status of the cathedral tto an international shrine. In June 2022, the Holy See accepted the petition, with a Papal decree issued in March 2023.

The Antipolo Cathedral was recognized as an international shrine starting March 26, 2023, coinciding with the commemoration of the Virgin’s journey from Mexico to the Philippines in 1626. – Rappler.com

Lance Arevada is an Aries Rufo Journalism Fellow for 2023-2024

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