Lone chapel for holy relics

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Saturday, May 5, 2012


THERE’S only one chapel for holy relics in the Philippines, and it is located at Tabor Hill in Barangay San Jose, Cebu City. According to Fr. Dennis Duene Gutierrez Ruiz, OAD, the chapel has more than 600 relics in the premises, most of which he got when he was in Rome.

There he happened to work in the Office of the Relics in the Vicariate of Rome, so it was relatively easy for him to ask for them (Relics and other objects are beyond the commerce of man and, therefore, are not supposed to be sold. Those who sell or buy them commit the sin of simony). Some were also given to him by a Spanish bishop, the late Cipriano Calderon Polo. Others he got from the church agency tasked to give them away.

All the relics in the chapel have the seal of authenticity from the Vatican. And 90 percent of them are first class, meaning they are bits of bone, hair, blood, skin or other body part of a saint. Second-class relics are objects used by the saints during their lifetime.

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The chapel’s main altar has a painting above it signifying God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Slightly below it, to its sides, are relics of the Blessed Virgin Mary at right, and St. Joseph, at left. To the far side of these reliquaries are empty niches that will contain the statues of San Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed (soon-to-be-saint) Pedro Calungsod, both of whom died martyrs and left no relics behind: San Lorenzo in Japan, whose body was cremated, and Blessed Pedro, in Guam, whose body was thrown to the sea.

Below these are relics of the 12 apostles of Jesus (Judas Iscariot was replaced by St. Matthias). To the sides are a panel of relics of saints who founded congregations, including Mother Teresa; another one of relics of Augustinian saints, including those of St. Augustine, St. Monica, St. Exequiel Morena and St. Rita of Cascia, patron saint of impossible causes; another panel for popes and doctors of the church; and another panel of saints of royal blood. On special stands are the reliquaries of the favorite saints of Cebu: San Roque, San Antonio de Padua, San Isidro and San Vicente Ferrer.

The chapel also has relics of the Passion and Death of Jesus, but these are displayed only during Holy Week. Most of these relics were brought to Rome by St. Helena when she retrieved the Holy Cross.

Fr. Dennis says the collection is still growing and that he has recently received relics of the children of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta. He has given all these relics to his congregation, the Order of the Discalced Augustinians, and for all intents and purposes, the chapel has become their permanent home, a place where one can just possibly commune better with one’s favorite saint whose relic happens to be there.

The chapel is open daily, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 06, 2012.

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