This Friday, August 27, 2021, the leader of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, Manila Archbishop Jose Fuerte Cardinal Advincula, will preside over a mass for the solemn blessing and dedication of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral in a three-hour ceremony.
Archbishop Rolando Octavus Joven Tria Tirona of Caceres will be the preacher, with the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Most Rev. Charles John Brown, in attendance along with Bishop Manolo delos Santos of Virac, Bishop Rex Andrew Alarcon of Daet, Bishop Jose Bantolo of Masbate, Bishop Jose Rojas Jr. of Libmanan, Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, and Bishop Jose Alan Dialogo of Sorsogon, as well as officials of the Caritas Manila and other guests.
The guests from the Bicol mainland will begin to arrive this Thursday, Aug. 26, with the Archbishop of Manila, the Papal Nuncio, and their party going by plane on Friday morning.
After a short procession from San Jose along the national road, the ceremony will begin at exactly 4 PM and end some three hours later.
Aside from the Catholic leaders and local priests, only 646 selected officials of Parish Pastoral Councils and the laity representing the 39 parishes will be allowed entry into the cathedral.
According to the organizers, members of the public who have been invited to attend include the elective officials of Virac, some provincial officials, and representatives of several sectors.
Pursuant to minimum health protocols set in consultation with the local Inter-Agency Task Force and health officials, the invitees have been issued numbered and color-coded tickets to indicate where they would be seated inside the venue as well as meal stations outside the cathedral.
The entire celebration, which coincides with the 47th foundation anniversary of the Diocese of Virac, the Fifth Centenary of Christianity in the Philippines, and the Year of St. Joseph, will be streamed online through the Diocesan Facebook page.
In the evening, Cardinal Advincula, Archbishop Tria Tirona, the bishops and priests will be treated to a musical dinner tribute at E-Crown Hotel.
On Saturday, Aug. 28, a memorial mass for the late Bishop Jose Crisologo Sorra will be held at 9 AM at the cathedral where he was buried after his death on Jan. 21, 2021 at the age of 91, with the family of Virac’s first bishop to occupy a special place.
Lay representatives from the parishes present in this celebration will remain for the 10:30 AM audience with the Papal Nuncio, who will also meet with Catholic youths at 2:30 PM before going to San Andres town for the blessing of core shelters constructed by Caritas and its beneficiaries.
In a press briefing at the cathedral last Friday, the organizing committee said the blessing and dedication is a big event not only for Catholics in the diocese but also for the people of Catanduanes.
It added that it is also an opportunity for the faithful to meet the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines.
The two lay representatives from each parish have been given the choice of event to attend, so there is an option of two different pairs for each event. They are either heads of Parish Pastoral Councils or key officials of Basic Faith Communities chosen by their respective parish priests.
Rev. Fr. Allan Martin Basilio, who is the diocese’s vicar general, explained that Canon Law defines the church as a sacred building for divine worship, a visible sign of a living faith, not only a building but a gathering of the faithful.
Thus, he said, the cathedral, as the seat of the Catholic Church in Virac and the mother of all churches in the diocese, needs to be blessed and dedicated to God.
“It is not simply a blessing to sanctify but to dedicate the cathedral and give it to the care of Nuestra Señora dela Inmaculada Concepcion,” he told the media.
Holy oil used in the Chrism mass, which is a mixture of olive oil and balm, will be daubed on crosses embedded in the concrete posts and walls during the cathedral’s consecration to signify the spirit of God and the anointing by the Holy Spirit.
Afterwards, the Solemnity of the Dedication of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral will be celebrated in the Diocese of Virac every year.
Built of light materials when erected as a parish church in 1756, the seat of the diocese took its present form through decades of sheer faith and hard work of the people and its pastors. Its renovation began in 2010 and continues to this day.