By Kendrick Ivan B. Panganiban
by Kendrick Ivan Panganiban, Tarlac City
The Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Tarlac City is now an “affiliate” church of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.
The privilege bestows upon the diocesan shrine a certain “spiritual bond of affinity” to the basilica, one of the four “Papal Basilicas”.
With this, the indulgences attached to the basilica can also be obtained, under the usual conditions, at the Tarlac shrine.
It was in July this year when the shrine started a petition that it be affiliated with the Church’s premier Marian church.
The basilica relayed to the diocese the approval of the petition on Sept. 7. The diocese announced it to the public on Sept. 8, the Feast of the birth of Mary.
Tarlac’s image of Our Lady of Mercy, also known as Our Lady of Ransom, was brought to the city in the 1900’s and its chapel became a parish in 1955.
The original image was stolen in 1993, but was returned to the church in 2015 in time for the church’s 60th anniversary, which many refer to as a miracle of God through the prayers of the Virgin.
Due to the great devotion of Tarlaqueños to the Virgin of Mercy, the church was elevated as a diocesan shrine on Feb. 24, 2018 by Bishop Enrique Macaraeg.
The same bishop granted the image’s episcopal coronation on Sept. 24, 2020, in line with the church’s 65th canonical erection anniversary.
In a resolution approved on Sept. 8, 2020, the city government also declared Nuestra Señora de la Merced as “Queen of the City of Tarlac”.
The Tarlac shrine is the ninth church in the Philippines to be given such a title of perpetual affiliation with the St. Mary Major Basilica: Manaoag Basilica (Pangasinan) and Caysasay Shrine (Batangas) in 2011, Orani Basilica (Bataan) in 2012, Turumba Shrine (Pakil, Laguna) in 2014, Mount Carmel Basilica (Quezon City) and Bantay Shrine in 2017 and Loboc (Bohol) and Novaliches (Quezon City) shrines early this year.