Pope Francis has elevated a 16th century church in the northern Philippine province of Ilocos Sur to the rank of minor basilica.
Archbishop Marlo Peralta of Nueva Segovia announced the new status of the St. Nicholas of Tolentino Parish in Sinait town during Mass on May 3.
The announcement also coincided the opening of the church’s “Jubilee Door” and three years since the parish was declared Archdiocesan Shrine of Sto. Cristo Milagroso.
The designation is granted to churches around the world in recognition of their special pastoral and liturgical significance in Catholic life, and their closeness to the pope.
The request for minor basilica status was presented to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2020 by the parish.
Built in 1574 by the Augustinian missionaries and completed in 1598, the church is considered one of the oldest religious edifices in the country.
The shrine is also home to a 400-year-old life-size image of the crucified Christ that generated devotion among the faithful in the Ilocos region and as far as Cagayan province.
The image was found in 1620 on the shores of Dadalaquiten, the boundary between the towns of Sinait and Badoc in Ilocos Norte.
Along with the black crucified Christ was a Marian statue contained in a crate floating along the shore where local fishermen were casting their nets.
It is believed that the images drifted from Japan where Christians were persecuted during that time.
The crucifix was brought to Sinait while the Marian statue was brought to the Badoc Church, which was declared a minor basilica in 2019.
In 2020, the archdiocese celebrated 400 years since the finding of the image.
The elevation rite for the church is set on September 10 this year, the feast of St. Nicholas. It will be the first minor basilica in the archdiocese, and the second in the Ilocos region.