500th year of Christianity rites in PHL close with holy masses, procession

CEBU CITY – Messages about love and peace, and compassion for the downtrodden; the importance of steadfast faith and Christian life were echoed by three Roman Catholic leaders during a mass on Sunday, April 24, ending the country’s 500th Year of Christianity (YoC) commemoration at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in Cebu City.

As part of the rites, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma led a procession, which started from the Capitol  up to the Cathedral, participated by around 10,000 individuals.
Later in a mass, Palma said the Filipinos’ faith have helped them withstood several challenges such as natural disasters like Typhoon Odette (Rai) in December and the recent Tropical Depression Agaton (Megi), and the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, on the other hand, said in his homily that people around the world must work together to promote peace and unity, and everyone must be compassionate towards the most vulnerable sector.

For his part, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown told the faithful that Christian life will never end.
“Christian faith is life. The life that we received, that life that came here 500 years ago, doesn’t end. It is preparing us for the life that will never end, a supernatural life that we call God’s grace,” said Brown as Sun Star reported.

The 500 YoC commemorates the introduction of Christianity to the Philippines in 1521. The commemoration began in April last year.

In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan introduced Christianity to the natives of Cebu. The explorer gave the Sto. Niño as a baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, who was given a Christian name, Juana.

One of the activities last year was the reenactment of the first baptism at the Plaza Sugbo where actors also reenacted the meeting of Magellan and his men and then Cebu chieftain Rajah Humabon and wife, Hara Amihan.

The Archdiocese of Cebu formally closed the 500th Year of Christianity (YOC) celebration with the simultaneous holding of holy masses at all the parishes and a solemn procession in this capital city led by Archbishop Jose Palma.

The prelate said part of the closing celebration is the coronation of the Nuestra Señora Patrocinio de Maria in Cebu’s southern town of Boljoon.
Palma thanked the Cebuanos for supporting the Roman Catholic Church in Cebu in celebrating the arrival of the Christian faith in Cebu some 500 years ago, and the involvement of spreading such faith in other countries of the world.
“To us I would like to thank you, especially the media for having journeyed with us… But these are the days when the involvement and participation have become more intense and more significant in the sense that a lot of people are watching us, are joining us. And certainly, the spirit of thanksgiving and in the spirit of gratitude of the Lord, realizing that we are gifted to give, we own that blessing from the Lord and we accept as well the invitation, the challenge to share what we have received,” Palma said.
Fr. Mhar Balili, secretary-general of 500th YOC, said that after the simultaneous conduct of the mass, all the parish and the cathedral will also do the consecration to the Sr. Sto. Niño de Cebu and procession of the holy image at each parish vicinity, while the congregation sings the “Bato Balani sa Gugma” (Magnet of Love).
Balili said Palma officially declared the closing of the 500th YOC at the cathedral.
The main mass at the cathedral started with a processional rite  at the historical landmark, the Magellan’s Cross to symbolize the arrival of Christianity by the act of the Spanish in planting the cross on April 14, 1521.
Msgr. Ruben Labajo, vicar general, said the church also held a solemn procession to mark the end of the celebration starting at the Cebu provincial capitol to the cathedral, passing by the whole stretch of the Osmeña Blvd.
“There were many activities (being) canceled during this celebration because of the pandemic. So you could just imagine how much we pray this closing event will really push through. So now, we are thankful to God for granting us our petitions,” Labajo said, stressing the significance of this event to the Filipinos for sharing God’s blessing of Christian faith to other places in Asia and the world.
On Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., holy masses at the churches in Cebu City will be suspended to allow the team ministries and the parishioners to join the procession.