By Kendrick Ivan B. Panganiban
March 10, 2021
A northern Philippine parish on Monday was granted the status as the country’s first diocesan shrine dedicated to Saint John Paul II.
The ceremony was held as the Balanga diocese celebrates this year the 40th anniversary of the Polish saint’s visit to Bataan province on Feb. 21, 1981.
The milestone event was also marked with the elevation of the newly-constructed church as a parish in a Mass presided over by Archbishop Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines.
In his homily, Bishop Ruperto Santos told the parishioners that they 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,” Santos added.
According to him, there are at least three responsibilities of a shrine: to serve as “refuge, comfort and shelter”.
“We are called through this shrine not only to have a place for seeking God but also be a people that seek God and be a home where pilgrims experience hope like what St. John Paul II showed Filipinos and refugees 40 years ago,” Santos said.
“May this shrine, which is clearly seen by anyone along the crossroads to and from Bataan, 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.
Fr. 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 in Hermosa town’s Culis village to make it more accessible to pilgrims.
“This is the first parish that travellers would now be able to visit once they enter Bataan through the Bataan Provincial Highway,” Sibug said.
There are at least 249 diocesan shrines in the country today, six of them are in the Balanga diocese.
These include the diocesan shrines of St. Joseph in Balanga City, San Roque in Limay town, St. Catherine of Alexandria in Bagac town, the Holy Family in Orani town, and the Divine Mercy in Abucay town.