By Christina Hermoso
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles led the holy mass and solemn declaration Tuesday, April 23, of the San Antonio de Padua Church in Pila, Laguna as a national shrine, the 25th in the country.
San Pablo Bishop Buenaventura Famadico served as the homilist during the Eucharistic celebration which was attended by Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabrielle Giordano Caccia, Capiz Archbishop Jose Advincula, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, Lucena Bishop Mel Rey Uy, more than 2,000 priests, nuns, government officials, and laypeople.
The San Antonio de Padua Church is a centuries-old tourist attraction and pilgrimage site in Laguna. It is Asia’s first Antonine church, said a CBCP News post. It is also the Diocese of San Pablo’s first national shrine.
The bishops granted the petition to elevate the church into a national shrine during their plenary assembly last January.
Originally made of hardwood and bamboo, the church was inaugurated in 1581 in its first site in Pagalangan. In 1599, the construction of the stone church began and was not completed until 18 years later in 1617.
Perennial flooding in Pagalangan forced the governor general to order the transfer of the church to the Hacienda Santa Clara, now known as the town of Pila, in November 1794.
“As locals wanted to rebuild the church to its original design and structure, they decided to carry and transfer every brick and stone from the church in Pagalangan to Pila in 1804. The transfer of the church was completed on 1816. Although the design was the same, the old church was said to be three times bigger than the present structure in Pila,” the CBCP said.
In May 2000, the National Historical Institute declared the San Antonio de Padua Church and the town of Pila as a national historical landmark. In 2002, the church was elevated as the Diocesan Shrine of San Antonio de Padua. (Christina I. Hermoso)