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Laguna’s San Antonio de Padua Church now a ‘national shrine’

Laguna’s San Antonio de Padua   Church now a ‘national shrine’
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The San Antonio de Padua Church becomes the San Pablo diocese’s first national shrine and the 25th in the country. ROY LAGARDE

By Roy Lagarde

April 23, 2019

Pila, Laguna

A centuries-old and Asia’s first Antonine church has been elevated to a “national shrine” status on Tuesday.

Located in Pila, Laguna, the San Antonio de Padua Church— longtime a tourist attraction and pilgrimage site, becomes the San Pablo diocese’s first national shrine and the 25th in the Philippines.

The solemn declaration was held during a Mass presided over by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Philippine bishops’ conference, with Bishop Buenaventura Famadico of San Pablo as the homilist.

More than 2,000 priests, nuns, government officials and laypeople attended the event.

Also in attendance were Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabrielle Caccia, Archbishop Jose Advincula of Capiz and Bishops Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig and Mel Rey Uy of Lucena.

The bishops during their plenary assembly last January “unanimously” approved the petition to elevate the church to the rank of a national shrine.

In a decree, the bishops expressed hope that the people who visit the shrine “may grow steadily in Christian piety, reach maturity in the Catholic faith and constantly live the mandate of Christian charity.”

Aside from making always available the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, they said that “the poor and the needy must always receive the best pastoral care from the Catholic community who come to this national shrine”.

Originally made of hardwood and bamboo, the church was inaugurated in 1581 in its first site in Pagalangan.

In 1599, the construction of the stone church started. It took 18 years to finish until its completion in 1617.

Due to consistent flooding in Pagalangan, the governor general in November 1794 ordered the transfer of the church to the Hacienda Santa Clara, now known as Pila town.

As locals wanted to rebuild the church to its original design and structure, they decided to come together and unite to carry and transfer every brick and stone from the church in Pagalangan to Pila in 1804.

The transfer of the church was completed on 1816. Although the design is the same, the old church was said to be three times bigger than the present structure in Pila.

In May 2000, the National Historical Institute proclaimed the San Antonio de Padua Church and the town of Pila as a “national historical landmark”.

The church was elevated as the Diocesan Shrine of San Antonio de Padua in 2002.