Whether or not the first celebration of the Holy Eucharist was held on the island of Homonhon off the coast of Eastern Samar remains an “academic discussion.”
An official of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines said it has refrained from using the “trivial and debatable phrase” so as not to preempt other claims on the historic Mass.
“This not to preempt the possible Christian celebration conducted in the Philippine territory prior to the one in Limasawa, such as this claim in Homonhon,” said Rene Escalante, commission head.
Escalante was responding to a position paper written by Father Neil Tenefrancia, chancellor of the Diocese of Borongan, on the supposed site of the first Mass.
In his 15-page paper, the priest argued for the logical possibility of at least four unrecorded Masses on Homonhon based on the pre-Tridentine liturgical calendar in use during 1521.
“Nevertheless, the case of Homonhon shall remain an academic discussion,” said Escalante of the historical commission.
“In actively advancing this claim, the Diocese of Borongan has to guarantee that the public must appreciate it methodologically,” he said.
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew, including an Augustinian missionary, landed on March 16, 1521, on Homonhon island, where they stayed for eight days before heading to Limasawa Island in what is now Southern Leyte province.
The historical commission has earlier affirmed that the “First Easter Sunday Mass” was held on Limasawa island on March 31, 1521.
The week prior to March 31 was a Holy Week, wherein Catholics commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
Some theorists claim that the first Mass might have been celebrated on Homonhon, where Magellan and his men took a weeklong respite.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines is celebrating the fifth centenary of the arrival of the Christian faith in the country in 2021.
Father Christian Ofilan of St. John the Baptist Parish in Homonhon expressed hope that the site of the first Mass in the country will finally be resolved.
“It is our hope and prayer that the historical recognition that the island of Homonhon rightfully deserves may finally be accorded to her,” said the priest.