A first in Southeast Asia: Antipolo Cathedral declared international shrine

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SOUTHEAST Asia got its first international shrine with the Antipolo Cathedral, home of the nearly four-centuries-old Marian image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, underscoring how deeply Filipinos have manifested their faith through popular piety, said the Vatican representative to the country.

The designation of Antipolo Cathedral marked only the 13th time the Holy See declared a church an international shrine.

Archbishop Charles John Brown, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, expressed amazement over Filipinos’ unwavering devotion to religious traditions, such as Misas de Gallo, Traslación, and the Sinulog festival.

“I’m here to tell you that for me, as a non-Filipino having lived here for three years, it is so edifying and so wonderful to see this evidence of the popular piety of the Filipino people,” he said during Mass for the solemn declaration on Friday, Jan. 26. 

Antipolo Cathedral has long been the destination of “Alay Lakad,” where devotees take a pilgrimage spanning over six kilometers, which usually starts from Taytay, Rizal, to seek penance or blessing or express gratitude. The tradition attracts more than four million people every year.

More than 80 bishops across the country grace the solemn declaration of Antipolo Cathedral as an international shrine, including Archbishop Charles John Brown, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines (third from right). (Photo by Albert Earl A. Gomez/ The Varsitarian)

Citing Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation “Evangeli Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel),” Brown said popular piety has served as a “link” between active and passive faithful. 

“Popular piety can be a connection to many people who may not be practicing their faith by coming to Mass every Sunday but still have this wonderful, beautiful connection to the Church and have faith,” the papal nuncio said. 

“[Popular religiosity] reinforces one another […] That’s why we need to appreciate [and] love popular piety because it’s [also] a way in which people can come to a greater understanding of the beauty and richness of sacramental life in the Church.”

More than 80 prelates attended the solemn declaration, including Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP); Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula, and Antipolo Bishop Ruperto Santos. 

Political figures were also present at the historic event, including First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, Rizal Governor Nina Ynares and Antipolo Mayor Jun Ynares.

The attendance of clergy from all over the country, Brown said, showed synodality with the people.

“We are all crowded together in and outside the shrine with our faithful people to listen to them, to observe them, to see their faith [and] to be edified by their faith,” he said. “Because faith comes from hearing.”

“We, in a certain sense, hear the faith of the people by being close to them. We listen to their faith. And they listen to us, as you’re listening to me preaching this morning – this beautiful reciprocal listening which is the essence of synodality,” he added.

CBCP Secretary General Msgr. Bernardo Pantin read the papal decree issued by the Office of the Dicastery for Evangelization on March 25, 2023, signed by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella.

“[K]indly accepting this petition of our venerable brother, Most Rev. Francisco Mendoza de Leon, bishop of Antipolo, as well as the conference of bishops of the Philippines, due to the great zeal of the shrine in promoting and transmitting the faith in the same diocese in the Philippine nation and the entire Asian continent, and so that it would reach the heart of the faithful throughout the whole world,” the decree stated. 

“This Dicastery for Evangelization, according to canons 1231 and 1232 of the Code of Canon Law, as well as article 56, paragraph two of the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, elevates the house of pilgrimage of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in the town of Antipolo into an international shrine and its statutes approved the confirmation of a three-year period ad experimentum (on an experimental basis),” it added.  

The CBCP petitioned the Vatican on July 16, 2021 to elevate Antipolo Cathedral from a national shrine into an international shrine. The Vatican approved the request on June 18, 2022.

Canon 1232 stipulates that the “Holy See alone” approves the statutes of an international shrine.

Political figures are present at the solemn declaration of Antipolo Cathedral as an international shrine, including First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos (right) and Antipolo Mayor Jun Ynares (middle). (Photo by Albert Earl A. Gomez/ The Varsitarian)

Antipolo Cathedral was established by the Jesuits in 1632. It was damaged in 1945 when Allied Forces bombarded the area. Former first lady Aurora Quezon and parish priest Francisco Avendano led the fundraising for its restoration, which was completed in 1954.

That year, the CBCP declared the church a national shrine. It obtained its cathedral status in 1983.

The Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, representing the Immaculate Conception in its Black Madonna form, was brought to the Philippines from Mexico in 1626 by former governor general Juan Niño de Tabora. The image was canonically crowned three centuries later by the Manila archbishop, Michael O’Doherty.

The other 12 international shrines in the world are:

  • The International Shrine of Blessed Basile Moreau (France)
  • St. Thomas International Shrine (India)  
  • Knock Shrine (Ireland)
  • Basilica della Santa Cassa (Italy)
  • Pontifical Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei (Italy)
  • National Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico)
  • Divine Mercy Shrine (Poland)
  • Jasna Góra Monastery (Poland)
  • Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows (Poland)
  • St. Anne’s Church (Poland)
  • St. Jadwiga’s Basilica (Poland)
  • Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima (Portugal)

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