The church of St. Dominic in Pangasinan province’s city of San Carlos was formally declared a minor basilica Saturday, making it the first church of such stature in Asia under the patronage of the founder of the Order of Preachers.
At a Mass on Saturday, Jan. 14, the parish was formally declared a minor basilica, and the church will now be known as the “Minor Basilica of Saint Dominic”.
The liturgy was presided over by Archbishop Charles Brown, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, with Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, his auxiliary bishop Fidelis Layog, and Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner, the Master of the Order of Preachers, as concelebrants.
At the start of the service, Bishop Layug read the decree from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments designating the 250-year old church as a minor basilica.
Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila then blessed the special insignia of a minor basilica: the “ombrellino” or a large umbrella highlighted with alternate red and yellow silk stripes, and the “tintinnabulum” or a bell mounted on a pole.
In his homily, Fr. Timoner said that the new basilica under the patronage of St. Dominic is the fifth in the world— three are in Italy and one in Argentina that were declared basilicas shortly before or after the 7th centenary of the death of St. Dominic.
“This is the first, and perhaps, the only one after the 8th Jubilee celebration,” Fr. Timoner said.
Of the approximately 1,800 minor basilicas in the world, the Philippines is home to 21 and two of them are in the Lingayen-Dagupan archdiocese.
A minor basilica is a special designation conferred on churches from the Vatican based on, among others, architectural beauty, historical or cultural significance and liturgical celebrations.
Minor basilicas are located throughout the world while major basilicas are all located in Rome.
A basilica ranks in importance right below the principal church of the archdiocese, which is St. John the Evangelist Cathedral, the archbishop’s church in Dagupan City.
Various privileges and obligations such as plenary indulgences are attached to visits to a minor basilica by the faithful.
Cardinal Advincula said the basilica also shows Pope Francis’ “closeness with us all”.
“He has given official recognition to the depth and intensity of our devotion to St. Dominic, and he urges us to invite more people to come closer to the Lord to experience his great love,” the cardinal added.
The rich Catholic history of San Carlos, originally known as Binalatongan, dates back to 1587 with the arrival of Dominican missionaries that evangelized Pangasinan. The town’s first church was made of bamboo and nipa.
The church’s original site was moved to higher locations three times in the 17th and 19th centuries due to seasonal flooding.
In the 18th century, most churches were built of bricks and the largest bricks produced then were from San Carlos. After the Palaris revolt in 1765, a new church in its current site was built and completed in 1773.
Santo Domingo Ybanez de Erquicia who received the crown of martyrdom in Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture and San Francisco Gil de Federich who died for the faith in Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin were both Dominican missionaries who once ministered in the parish.