Maasin City erupts with joy after 17th century Cathedral declared national shrine

Maasin Cathedral in Maasin City, Southern Leyte.
Maasin Cathedral in Maasin City, Southern Leyte. (Photo by Reginald de Guia)

CHURCH officials and residents in Maasin City, Southern Leyte were elated after the Catholic bishop leaders elevated the status of its 17th century Cathedral into a national shrine.

Monsignor Oscar Cadayona, vicar-general of the Diocese of Maasin, said the declaration of the Maasin Cathedral Church, also known as the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Assumption in Maasin City, into a national shrine symbolizes the "outpouring of graces to all of us devotees to the Mahal nga Patrona (Beloved Our Lady of Assumption)."

With its new title, the shrine is no longer governed by a diocesan statutes but by Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Cadayona told Sunstar Philippines on July 7, 2024.

"We expect the influx of pilgrims from all over the archipelago," Cadayona expressed his hope over the new designation of the Cathedral.

This will be the first national shrine in the Eastern Visayas region, with a population of over four million, where the majority are Catholics, according to the report from Catholic news site UCA News.

City Mayor Nacional Mercado said that Maasin City "is indeed Eastern Visayas’ religious and pilgrimage capital, a haven for spiritual seekers."

The announcement on the new designation of the Maasin Cathedral was made during the CBCP’s 128th plenary assembly in Cagayan De Oro City in the southern Island of Mindanao on July 6.

Aside from the Maasin Cathedral, the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy in Novaliches, Quezon City was also recognized as a national shrine by more than 70 bishops who attended the assembly.

"We are truly honored and blessed that our Maasin Cathedral has been approved for National Shrine status. We are truly overwhelmed by the unity of participation and support of the Maasinhon community, especially to the Diocese of Maasin, towards the designation of our Cathedral as a national shrine--my heartfelt and sincerest congratulations," Mercado said in the report.

"Let’s always continue the spirit of ajonay (mutual understanding)...Let’s pray with fervent hope that God and Mama Mary will bless our beloved city and lead us to continue to shine and progress, benefitting all the constituents," he added.

As a national shrine, CBCP has recognized the significance of the Maasin Cathedral being a “congenial center of devotion or pilgrimage."

While they are aiming to have a formal celebration soon, Cadayona said they still have to meet with the shrine council and parish pastoral council and with the city government for their plans.

Maasin, with over 85,000 residents at present, became a parish under the Jesuit missionaries in 1771.

With the taking over of the Franciscans, the Maasin parish church was dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption in 1843.

When the parish church became a Cathedral in 1968, the new Diocese of Maasin took the Our Lady of the Assumption as its patroness.

The image received episcopal coronation in a ceremony headed by former archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle on August 15, 2018, according to the CBCP.

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown officiated the episcopal coronation rite of the shrine’s venerated image of Our Lady of the Assumption on Aug. 13, 2022.

"[It's] about time [that Maasin Cathedral is declared a national shrine], in a place long known as a religious city," said Marcelino Pedalino, 61, a devout Catholic and resident of Maasin. (Ronald O. Reyes/SunStar Philippines)

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