(SPOT.ph) It’s official: The National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, better known as the Antipolo Cathedral, will rise to the rank of international shrine on March 25, courtesy of the Vatican. What will this mean for the third-largest Catholic population in the world?
The announcement came just in time for the Holy Week, when the Catholic faithful are expected to visit the newest international shrine and pay respect to the 17th Century Black Madonna image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
"It’s official. We are now elevated into an international shrine," the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in a statement. "The decree has been sent to us by the Holy See and will be effective by March 25, 2023."
The announcement was first made in June 2022 but the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines only received the copy of the Holy See decree now.
Antipolo Cathedral marks the Philippines’ first and Asia’s third international shrine, joining the ranks of St. Thomas Church Malayattoor in India and the Haemi Martyrdom Holy Ground and Seoul Pilgrimage Routes in South Korea.
For the Holy See to approve this elevated title is to recognize the Antipolo Cathedral’s "special cultural, historical, and religious significance," especially as part of the Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines.
"By being a center of the Catholic faith in the region, this would be an honor that will be claimed as a beacon for Filipinos across the world and those inspired by the cause of peace and good voyage attest their fervor in the faith to the love of Christ and to the maternal care of the Blessed Mother," the Antipolo Cathedral wrote in a Facebook post in June 2022.
Before we can talk about international recognition, what is a shrine to begin with?
Canon Law dictates that a shrine is a church or other sacred place with an important relic "to which members of the faithful make pilgrimage for a special reason of piety, with the approval of the local ordinary."
The Catholic Church has three kinds of shrines—diocesan, national, and international—but only international shrines are endorsed by the Vatican. If devotion has grown in the shrine, the church body can petition the Vatican to grant it the title of international shrine, which Bishop Francisco de Leon of Antipolo did for the Antipolo Cathedral in June 2022.
He wrote in the petition: "It is undeniable that the National Shrine of Our Lady is considered a prime pilgrim Church of the Philippines because of the countless devotees and pilgrims who have come and experienced the special presence of the Blessed Mother in their life through the pastoral care of pilgrims in this Shrine."
According to the Catholic News Agency, international shrines should have historic locations, sites of approved Marian apparitions, and places associated with saints—and as we know, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage is generally considered one of the most celebrated Marian images in the country.
This rise in status comes just in time for the upcoming Alay Lakad, a pilgrimage that occurs every Maundy Thursday. Catholics commit to the long route to and from the Antipolo Cathedral; some trek for love of the Virgin Mary, others for special requests and penance. Whatever the reason, the pilgrimage to Antipolo Cathedral is a must for the most devout of Catholics.
Even Dr. Jose Rizal himself went on this very pilgrimage to the Antipolo Cathedral with his father from his hometown in Calamba in 1868. Yes, the cathedral is that old. It was first completed in 1632, with a long history of being destroyed and rebuilt through the centuries. The last major reconstruction was done post the ravages of WWII and completed in 1954. It was elevated to Cathedral status in 1983; a status which will soon be elevated once more.
Interestingly enough, March 25 also happens to be the day when the image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage left Acapulco to go on a three-month journey to the Philippines almost 400 years ago. It’s triple the celebration for Catholics everywhere.