ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: May 03, 2018 09:56 AM GMT
A replica of the image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose ivory head and hands were stolen in 1975, is displayed above the main altar of the Basilica of San Sebastian in Manila. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)
An early-morning religious procession expected to attract thousands of people on May 4 will launch the 400th anniversary celebration of the arrival of the revered Our Lady of Mount Carmel image in the Philippines.
The activities will relive the arrival of the image from Mexico in 1618 with the third mission of the Order of Augustinian Recollects as a gift from the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Acapulco.
The Augustinian Recollects were among the early religious orders to arrive in the Philippines and known for pioneering missionary work in the country.
The highlight of the celebration is the Salubong and Traslacion, literally the "Meeting" and Transfer" respectively, of the image from the bay of Manila to the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian in Manila's Quiapo district, where the image will be ceremonially enthroned.
The image was initially housed at the Augustinian Recollects' convent in Bagumbayan, now Luneta Park in Manila, and was enthroned three years later in 1621 at the first San Sebastian church in Quiapo.
The arrival of the image began a devotion that remains popular throughout the country today, as witnessed by the number of Filipinos who continue to wear the distinctive brown scapular, which is associated with the image, as well as the growing number of parishes and schools placed under her patronage.
The image is associated with anti-nuclear proliferation efforts. In 1990, Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy — an American priest from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, an Eastern-rite church in communion with the pope — initiated a day of prayer "for forgiveness and protection" at the New Mexico site of the first U.S. atomic bomb test called Trinity.
Every July 16 since then, the day is dedicated to prayer vigils for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila expressed hope that the May 4 celebration will "strengthen the devotion to Our Lady, drawing strength from her and from each other's presence that day."
"Let us take this occasion to pray for healing and reconciliation in our land and to consecrate our country to the Blessed Virgin Mary," said the Manila prelate.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said in a letter to his fellow bishops to make the celebration "an opportune time to make a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
Several of the country's bishops are expected to concelebrate the Thanksgiving Mass and "Act of Consecration" to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Manila's Luneta Park on May 4.
"We urgently need to seek Our Mother's intercession to protect the Philippines against natural calamities, ongoing attacks on the sanctity of life and of the family, and other serious difficulties that our nation faces," said Archbishop Valles.
Revered by devotees, the image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel is also a key figure in the annual feast of the Black Nazarene, which attracts millions of devotees from around the country every January.