ONE of the Philippines’ oldest parish churches marked its 440th anniversary on Thursday, June 11, with a simple celebration due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A Mass was celebrated at the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish church on the small remote island of Bantayan in northern Cebu province.
The observance was held with limited attendance in compliance with the government’s quarantine protocols.
In a video message to parishioners, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu offered his prayers of thanksgiving “for the gifts the Lord has bestowed in your parish”.
The archbishop said he is also praying that the pandemic would bring people closer and “stronger in faith.”
“Together let us believe that our faith founded on the apostles grow even stronger with difficulties,” Archbishop Palma said.
Built in 1580, the church structure has undergone many repairs but has kept intact a large part of the foundation and walls made of coral stones like other centuries-old churches in the Philippines.
For many years, the Bantayan church has been a famous pilgrimage site and a tourist destination.
During holy week observance, thousands of Catholics flock to the island for various church festivities.
The parish has also produced a number of religious and priests including Archbishop John Du of Palo and retired Auxiliary Bishop Emilio Bataclan of Cebu.