Ilocos Sur heritage church declared a “minor basilica”

Augustinian missionaries built the Minor Basilica of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and the Sanctuary of Santo Cristo Milagroso in 1574

LAOAG CITY, Philippines — The centuries-old parish church of St. Nicholas of Tolentino in Sinait, Ilocos Sur has been officially declared a minor basilica, the third church in the Ilocos region to achieve Vatican distinction.

Parishioners gathered on February 16 for a Mass led by Papal Nuncio Bishop Charles Brown in honor of the church’s ascension as 19and minor basilica.

The parish church is now called the “Minor Basilica of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and Santuario de Santo Cristo Milagroso”.

According to the 1989 Vatican document, Domus Ecclesiaelocal churches are elevated to minor basilica status for their “antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic value, and importance as centers of worship”.

Basilicas have the privilege of displaying a “ombrellino (a cone-shaped red and yellow canopy)” and a “tintinnabulumor a bell mounted on a pole that can be carried during processions. These highly respected churches are also permitted to use the crossed “papal keys” on church banners and signs.

The Archbishop of Nueva Segovia, Marlo Peralta, announced on May 3 last year the designation of the church as a minor basilica.

Brown said churches bearing the title of minor basilica are marked by their connection to the pope and the Church of Rome. “Spiritual blessings” from the pope through the basilica could be obtained, Peralta said last year.

In his homily, Cardinal José Advincula of Manila stressed that the “gift” of being declared a minor basilica comes with a mission and a responsibility, while reminding Catholics to share their faith.

The church received its new status during the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, Advincula added.

Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, leads the solemn declaration at the Minor Basilica of St. Nicholas of Tolentino and Shrine of Santo Cristo Milagroso” in Sinait, Ilocos Sur on February 16, 2022. SCREENSHOT/FACEBOOK PAGE OF SINAIT CHURCH

Its declaration as a minor basilica also made it a “center of prayer and a center of charitable works,” Peralta said.

“As a center of prayer, people are invited to receive the Eucharist, to pray before the image of Sto. Cristo and receive consolation for their burdens in life,” he said. “As a charity center, it will run programs for the poor so that those who need help can be helped.”

Considered a heritage church and one of the oldest religious buildings in the country, the Minor Basilica of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and Santuario de Santo Cristo Milagroso was built in 1574 by Augustinian missionaries.

Devout Catholics from the Ilocos region and neighboring Cagayan province flock to the church to seek hope and venerate the image of ‘Apo Lakay’, a 400-year-old life-size statue of the crucified Christ, which is kept inside the church.

Historical accounts show that local fishermen discovered the Apo Lakay statue in 1620 along with a statue of ‘Apo Baket’, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with baby Jesus on her arms, in two sealed boxes on the coast from Dadalaquiten, the border between the towns of Sinait and Badoc in the province of Ilocos Norte.

The crucifix was brought to the Church of Sinait, while the Marian statue was brought to the Church of Badoc, which was also declared a minor basilica in 2019. – Rappler.com

John Michael Mugas is a Luzon-based journalist and winner of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

Martha J. Finley