Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma led the baptism of 100 infants on Sunday, April 11, to mark the start of the quincentennial celebrations of the first baptism in the country.
“This day is very special to us,” said the prelate in his homily during Mass. As blood and water gushed forth from the heart of Jesus, we are reminded of the importance of baptism and the Holy Eucharist,” he added.
The celebration was held on the Second Sunday of Easter, which was also celebrated by the Catholic Church as Divine Mercy Sunday.
In his homily at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Cebu City, Archbishop Palma stressed the importance of baptism.
He said it frees one from original sin, incorporates the children into the Catholic Church, and makes them sharers in Jesus Christ’s mission.
“To our dear parents, this is a day to remember,” he said. “How privileged you are that your children will receive the sacrament today. Treasure this gift. Remember that your children come from God,” he added.
The prelate also stressed the importance of baptism as a gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments.
“The moment we are baptized, we become children of God,” he said.
“Baptism also makes us members of the Church, temples of the Holy Spirit, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven—all because of God’s mercy,” said Archbishop Palma.
On Monday, April 12, a hundred people will also take the Sacrament of Confirmation at the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City, Cebu.
The grand celebration of the 500th anniversary of the first baptism in the Philippines will be held on April 14, in Cebu City with the reenactment of the first baptism in front of the Magellan’s Cross.
Archbishop Charles Brown, papal nuncio to the Philippines, is expected to lead the celebration of a Pontifical Mass.
On April 14, 1521, Cebu chieftain Datu Humabon, Queen Juana, and 800 of their followers were reported to have been baptized as Christians by Father Pedro de Valderrama.
The April 14 baptism came a week after the arrival of the Spanish expedition led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.
On the day of the baptism, Magellan planted a cross in the middle of the plaza where the baptism ceremonies took place.