A parish church dedicated to St. John Paul II was formally elevated to a national shrine on Saturday, the eve of his death 18 years ago.
Around a thousand people packed the church to celebrate the country’s 28th national shrine in the village of Culis in Bataan province’s Hermosa town.
No other than Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), led the declaration ceremony with a Mass.
Also present were dozens of priests and bishops including Cardinal Jose Advincula of the Archdiocese Manila.
With the new declaration, the church will now be known as the “National Shrine and Parish of St. John Paul II”.
In his homily, the CBCP head reminded the faithful that the shrine “is not just a building but the Body of Christ”.
“And are all called to walk the path of Christ as a synodal Church… through communion, participation and mission,” David said.
In his message, the cardinal emphasized that the people’s encounter with God in the shrine “should lead us to an authentic encounter with one another”.
“As we encounter God in this national shrine, let us go on mission to encounter our brothers and sisters and share with them the self-sacrificing love that we experience in and receive from Jesus,” Advincula said.
It was on Jan. 29 this year when the bishops, who were gathered in plenary session, approved a petition to elevate the country’s only diocesan shrine dedicated to the Polish pope to a national shrine.
During his first visit to the Philippines, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass on February 21, 1981 for some 400,000 refugees fleeing from the Vietnam War in the 1970s in the refugee camp which was later converted into the Bataan Technological Park in Morong town.
To make it more accessible to the public and to accommodate more pilgrims, a bigger shrine was built in Culis, a boundary village between Bataan and Pampanga provinces.
The new church edifice was rededicated during Mass presided over by papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown on Feb. 21, 2021, the 40th year of the pope’s visit to the refugee camp.