A northern Philippine parish was granted the status as the country’s first diocesan shrine dedicated to Saint John Paul II.
The inauguration ceremony of the shrine was held on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Polish pope’s visit to the Diocese of Balanga in Bataan province in 1981.
The event was marked with the elevation of a newly-constructed church as a parish in the village of Cullis in the town of Hermosa.
Archbishop Charles John Brown, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, celebrated Mass with the faithful during the event.
In his homily, Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said the parishioners have a lot to be proud of with the shrine dedicated “to the great pope, St. John Paul II.”
Despite the many challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, “we are here together and we have triumphed in building this church that we now dedicated as a diocesan shrine,” he said.
“It is an offering, a gift and a grace,” said Bishop Santos.
He said a shrine has at least three responsibilities, that is, to serve as “refuge, comfort, and shelter.”
“We are called through this shrine not only to have a place for seeking God but also to be a people that seek God,” said the bishop.
“May this shrine … be a light that guides people that one is welcome in Bataan and one is guided by God as he or she leaves Bataan,” he added.
Father Anthony Sibug, the parish’s parochial vicar, said the diocese was motivated in creating a parish dedicated to the pope whose visit to the refugee camp in Bagac town “made an impact to the people there.”
Located in Hermosa town’s Culis village, the shrine was built to make it more accessible to pilgrims.
“This is the first parish that travelers would now be able to visit once they enter Bataan through the Bataan Provincial Highway,” said Father Sibug.
There are at least 249 diocesan shrines in the country, six of which are in the Diocese of Balanga.
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