The Parish of St. Nicholas of Tolentino and Santuario de Santo Cristo Milagroso in Sinait, Ilocos Sur, has formally assumed its new stature as a minor basilica on Wednesday, February 16.
Parishioners gathered for a Mass led by Archbishop Charles Brown, papal nuncio to the Philippines, to celebrate the honor of the centuries-old church becoming the 19th minor basilica in the country.
The Vatican decreed the church a minor basilica a year ago. With the designation comes a new name — “Minor Basilica of St. Nicholas de Tolentino and Santuario de Santo Cristo Milagroso.”
Archbishop Brown said churches with the title of minor basilica are marked in a special way by their connection to the pope and the Church of Rome.
Basilicas are granted the privilege of an “ombrellino” – a red and yellow, cone-shaped canopy — and a “tintinnabulum,” a bell mounted on a pole that can be carried in processions. They are also permitted to use the crossed “papal keys” on banners and signs.
“To be a minor basilica is to be so close to the pope,” Archbishop Brown said in his message.
The liturgy was concelebrated by Archbishop Marlo Peralta of Nueva Segovia and Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan.
Also in attendance were Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the archbishop emeritus of Cotabato, and six other bishops from Northern Luzon.
In his homily, Cardinal Advincula stressed that the “gift” of being declared a minor basilica “comes with mission and responsibility.”
As the declaration coincided with the church’s celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, he reminded the faithful that they are called to share their faith.
“We can’t merely remain as recipients of the gift of faith. We are also called to share it,” Cardinal Advincula said. “We are also challenged to be missionaries wherever we may find ourselves in.”
Archbishop Peralta briefly discussed the two-fold functions of a minor basilica: a center of prayer and a center of charity works.
“As a center of prayer, people are welcome to receive the Eucharist, pray before the image of Sto. Cristo and receive consolation for their burdens in life,” he said. “As a center for charity, it will launch programs for the poor so that those who need help can be helped.”
The archbishop explained that charity is the fruit of prayer and prayer can only bear fruit through the works of mercy.
“Prayer and charity always go together,” Archbishop Peralta said.
The Sinait Church is the third basilica in the Ilocandia region. The first was the Church of Our Lady of Charity in Agoo, La Union in 1982 and followed by the Badoc Church in Ilocos Norte in 2019.