Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Popular News

HomeNewsAsiaArchbishop Fisichella presides at Mass at first international shrine in the Philippines

Archbishop Fisichella presides at Mass at first international shrine in the Philippines

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the Pro-Prefect of the Section of Evangelization of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization, presided at a special thanksgiving Mass (“Misa de Gracia”) on Monday morning at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, in Antipolo City, Philippines, following its elevation to the rank of international shrine.

The “Misa del Gracia” concluded a triduum of Masses and processions with the Antipolo diocesan ministries and commissions from February 23 to 25.

The Cathedral is the home of a venerated Black Madonna image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and attracts millions of pilgrims annually,  especially during the pilgrimage season from May to July

The original church was built in the 17th century and was destroyed by the Allies during the Second World War as they liberated the area from the Japanese. It was rebuilt after the war and in 1954 the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) declared the church the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, making it the first national shrine in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

Solemnly declared an international shrine

In March 2023 Pope Francis issued a decree elevating the Cathedral to the rank of international shrine following a petition endorsed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The decree made it the first international shrine in the country, the eleventh in the world, and the third in Asia It is also the first Marian international shrine in Asia.

The solemn declaration of the shrine was held on January 26 during a Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Charles John Brown, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, and Bishop Ruperto Santos of Antipolo, with some eighty bishops and top government officials attending.

In his homily concluding the celebrations on Monday, Archbishop Fisichella remarked that the shrine has the mission “of spiritually uniting Christians with all believers scattered around the world” and of welcoming all, “especially the poorest and those in need of consolation and peace.”

“Being an international shrine is not just a privilege that is granted, but a mission that must be shared,” he said.

The following is the full text of Archbishop Fisichella’s homily:

Antipolo, February 26, 2024

Brothers and Sisters,

Before I make some reflections on the Word of God that we have heard, allow me to express a word of thanksgiving.

First of all to my dear brother, the Bishop of this Church of Antipolo, His Excellency, Bishop Ruperto Santos, for the invitation he has extended to me on numerous occasions so that I would be present at this celebration. This local Church has the responsibility of having in its land the shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage that we have established as an International Shrine. The presence of such a shrine is a sign of grace that calls all of us to a deep witness of faith. I also extend my greetings to the representative of the Holy Father, the Nuncio H.E. Archbishop Charles John Brown, who graciously received me and who carries out his mission to the Church in the Philippines with a great commitment. A cordial greeting to the Bishops present; to the Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians; to the consecrated persons, the Civil Authorities who are participating in this moment of celebration and prayer; to all of you, brothers and sisters, I extend my greeting as well as that of the Holy Father Francis, who has entrusted me to bring his blessing to all of you and the request to pray for him.

We have listened to the Word of God that illuminates our lives and especially brings a distinctive light to the Eucharistic celebration we are experiencing. We are in a Shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God who intercedes for us, before all else, so that peace may reign in the whole world and in our homes. Only if peace and serenity is present in our families, can we then hope that it will be present in the whole world in spite of the violence of men that always claims innocent victims. Today, in a special way we are here to ask for peace for all those regions of the world where people suffer unjustly because of the dominance of the violence of war. The wars around the world are the monstrous face of sin; they are the expression of those who turn away from God and do not listen to his voice. We recall the words of the Psalm that bear a particular sadness, “When I speak of peace, they are for war.” Truly, God’s thoughts are not our own; whenever we turn away from him, the streets become filled with fear, violence, and war.

Nevertheless, we have heard a proclamation that helps us to hope. We are “Pilgrims of Hope” in this world. To all of us falls the responsibility to be not only heralds of Christian hope, but above all builders of hope, creating concrete signs that give credibility to our words. As in the opening Book of the Bible, Genesis, today in this Sanctuary there is a ladder that ascends to God. Accompanying us in this ascent to heaven is the Virgin Mary. She who at the cross was commissioned by Jesus to care for each of us as if we were her children, and we really are. So let us open our hearts; let us keep our gaze fixed on her face; let us be looked upon by her who with a Mother’s love never abandons us. There is no need to increase our words; she already knows what we need. We need only to trust in her help and be certain that her closeness and sharing will never be lacking. If we are joyful, She rejoices with us; if we suffer, She suffers with us; if we address our prayer, She intercedes for it to be answered.

How much confidence and consolation the words we heard bring, “Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go; I will never leave you….” God never leaves us. In whatever situation we may find ourselves he remains beside us. Mary stood by the cross as Jesus suffered and died. Her Mother’s heart, however, had the certainty that her Son’s words would be fulfilled: “After three days I will rise again.” How much hope Mary must have had in her heart during those three days. Inside her were alternating moments of deep sadness and sorrow, but accompanied also by the hope of resurrection. The Mother of God repeats the same to each of us here today in her shrine, where the icon shines in all its beauty and gathers the prayers of millions of faithful who come to her to pray and be consoled.

Can we find stronger and more convincing words than these that God Himself addresses to us today? He will be with us forever; The Father of Jesus Christ never abandons us. The message that comes from the shrine at Antipolo becomes a true message of peace because it assures us of God’s presence and closeness forever in our lives. Whoever experiences God’s closeness becomes in turn an instrument of closeness for those in need. There is a necessary consequence for those who make a pilgrimage to the Shrine: the experience of grace lived here needs to be communicated and passed on to others. We do not live for ourselves, but rather we are always evangelizers. A pilgrim to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage knows that he cannot leave the shrine without taking with him the message of peace that the Mother of God gives him. It is certainly a message for himself, but it also becomes a responsibility for it to be shared.

The pilgrimage to the International Shrine has the mission of spiritually uniting Christians with all believers scattered around the world. Being an international shrine is not just a privilege that is granted, but a mission that must be shared. As the Bull we have signed states, “the faithful people of the Philippines have seen in the National Shrine of Antipolo Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage an inexhaustible source of inspiration and, in the school of the Virgin Mary on her way to bring Elizabeth the announcement of the peace of the Messiah, they continue on their journey of adherence to the faith and Christian witness”. The International Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, therefore, is open to the mission of having no boundaries, but instead opening wide its doors to welcome all, especially the poorest and those in need of consolation and peace. Today the Virgin Mary repeats to each of us the same words that Jacob heard, “Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go; I will never leave you….” For each of us, too, it is important to climb the ladder that leads up to heaven in order to live in fullness the eternal life that was given to us on the day of our baptism and whose responsibility we have every day to share with our brothers and sisters who come to this Shrine.

Therefore, may this house of God be a place where: faith becomes stronger because of the unceasing prayer that goes up to the Father through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; hope is strengthened because of the journey we must make until the final goal is reached; charity is lived with an abundance of the heart in recognizing the various forms of mercy the Lord has left us.

Popular News

Anti-semitism and Palestine

David Neuhaus, S.J., Professor of Scripture in Israel and Palestine, is a long-term member...

Pope prays for dialogue over conflict in the Middle East

Pope Francis issues a heartfelt plea for peace in Palestine, Israel, and Ukraine, urging...

Pope remembers Pius VII, a man of communion in difficult times

Pope Francis invites Italian pilgrims from the Dioceses of Cesena-Sarsina, Savona, Imola and Tivoli...

Sri Lanka: In pursuit of justice 5 years from Easter Sunday attacks

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombings,...