The images of worshipers celebrating the holiday in silence and respecting social distancing are unforgettable. Usually millions of people participate in the celebration. According to tradition, Ferdinand Magellan gave an image of the Santo Niño to Queen Juana, the wife of the King of Cebu, a gesture that sparked the spread of Christianity in the city and throughout the country. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of Manila, led the mass with the parish priest of the shrine, Father Estelito Villegas. Eight masses were celebrated during the day, all broadcast on social networks.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The celebrations that typically draw millions of people each year have been scaled back due to the pandemic. Despite a warning against visiting the Tondo Shrine, located on the outskirts of Manila, hundreds of Filipinos waited patiently in the early mornings and evenings, in line, to enter the church, receive communion, receive blessing and figurines. of the Child Jesus, whom they raised above their heads. The pictures our correspondent sent us tastes of genuine faith and beauty that can help overcome this difficult time for Manila and for the world.
The Philippines celebrated the feast of Santo Niño on January 17th. The Santo Niño is represented by a figurine of the Infant Jesus, originally brought to the country by Spanish explorers.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine government has allowed celebrations at the Santo Niño de Tondo Shrine, provided health and safety measures are strictly observed, including wearing surgical masks or visors and maintaining the social distance.
Filipino devotion to Santo Niño goes back a long way. This celebration is considered one of the most important festivities in the Philippines because it is full of color and joy.
The Apostolic Administrator of Manila, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, opened the celebrations by presiding a mass at the shrine on January 17 at 4 a.m.
In his homily, Bishop Pabillo underlined the fact that the faith of the Filipinos is centered on Jesus Christ and that the Filipino people love all the festivities related to the figure of Christ: Christmas, the black Nazarene, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the feast of Divine Mercy, Holy Week, the feast of the Child Jesus.
He also underlined the importance of the Santo Niño as one of the first objects of devotion, at a time when Filipinos are celebrating 500 years of Christianity in the country, with the theme “Gifted to give”. The image of the Santo Niño is an emblem of Christianity in the Philippines. According to tradition, Ferdinand Magellan gave an image of the Santo Niño to Queen Juana, the wife of the King of Cebu. This, it is said, started the spread of Christianity in the city and throughout the country.
Manila Police District 2 Station estimates that around 750 people attended the first mass at 4 a.m. near Tondo Church.
In the midst of so many changes, the same faith
In his homily at the solemn mass, Father Estelito Villegas, pastor of the Sanctuary of Tondo, declared that the presence of Jesus is not lost among the faithful, although there have been many changes this year. The faithful should not take into account the difficulties in which the holiday is celebrated this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the contrary, they must recognize the presence of Jesus in the hearts of each one.
This year, to avoid more infections, the local authorities and those in charge of the sanctuary have decided to abolish the procession with the statue of the Child Jesus; they also canceled the Lakbayaw festival, in which worshipers parade and dance while holding a replica of the Santo Niño.
The priest expressed his gratitude to the faithful, who celebrated the holiday in a spirit of praise and devotion, even though the country is under threat from COVID-19. The feast of Santo Niño renews the eternal love of the Lord for us.
In the eight masses
The order and security with which the celebration took place was the result of the work of the police who operated with precision and discretion. The priests of the Sanctuary of Tondo thanked the local authorities, the mayor of Manila Francisco Domagoso, the police and the military for allowing the celebration to take place and for keeping the church, its entrances and exits, inside like outside.
The men in uniform paid special attention to entering and leaving masses. In all, eight of them were. The officials also broadcast the masses on social networks. In this way, many faithful were able to follow them from their homes or work, preventing large gatherings in and around the church.