· Vatican City ·

Archbishop Fisichella presides at Mass in Antipolo City, Philippines

Opening wide the doors to welcome all

 Opening wide the doors  to welcome all  ING-009
01 March 2024

“The message that comes from the shrine at Antipolo becomes a true message of peace because it assures us of God’s presence and closeness forever in our lives. Whoever experiences God’s closeness becomes in turn an instrument of closeness for those in need”. Archbishop Rino Fisichella shared these words during Holy Mass celebrated on Monday morning, 26 February, in thanksgiving for the elevation of the Antipolo Cathedral as an International Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. The cathedral houses an ancient statue of Mary venerated under that title, which was brought from Mexico in the 17th century.

The Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization — Section for fundamental matters of evangelization in the world — said, “There is a necessary consequence for those who make a pilgrimage to the Shrine: the experience of grace lived here needs to be communicated and passed on to others”. The Archbishop affirmed that “we do not live for ourselves, but rather we are always evangelizers. A pilgrim to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage knows that he cannot leave the shrine without taking with him the message of peace that the Mother of God gives him. It is certainly a message for himself, but it also becomes a responsibility to be shared”.

For this reason, the Archbishop continued, “the pilgrimage to the International Shrine has the mission of spiritually uniting Christians with all believers scattered around the world. Being an international shrine is not just a privilege that is granted, but a mission that must be shared”. In this way, the shrine can be “open to the mission of having no boundaries, but instead opening wide its doors to welcome all, especially the poorest and those in need of consolation and peace. Today”, he continued, “the Virgin Mary repeats to each of us the same words that Jacob heard: ‘Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go; I will never leave you...’”. He stressed that “for each of us, too, it is important to climb the ladder that leads up to heaven in order to live in fullness the eternal life that was given to us on the day of our baptism and whose responsibility we have every day to share with our brothers and sisters who come to this Shrine”.

Archbishop Fisichella highlighted that as in the book of Genesis, the shrine contains “a ladder that ascends to God”, and that “accompanying us in this ascent to heaven is the Virgin Mary. She who at the cross was commissioned by Jesus to care for each of us as if we were her children, and we really are”, he said. “So let us open our hearts; let us keep our gaze fixed on her face; let us be looked upon by her who with a Mother’s love never abandons us”. He stressed that “there is no need to increase our words”, because “she already knows what we need”. Instead, “we need only to trust in her help and be certain that her closeness and sharing will never be lacking. If we are joyful, she rejoices with us; if we suffer, she suffers with us; if we address our prayer, she intercedes for it to be answered”.

Citing Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans (8:28-30), Archbishop Fisichella noted that “God never leaves us. In whatever situation we may find ourselves he remains beside us. Mary stood by the cross as Jesus suffered and died. Her Mother’s heart, however, had the certainty that her Son’s words would be fulfilled”, that is, that he would rise again after three days. “How much hope Mary must have had in her heart during those three days. Inside her were alternating moments of deep sadness and sorrow, but accompanied also by the hope of resurrection. The Mother of God repeats the same to each of us here today in her shrine, where the icon shines in all its beauty and gathers the prayers of millions of faithful who come to her to pray and be consoled”.

In conclusion, the Archbishop expressed his hope that “this house of God be a place where faith becomes stronger because of the unceasing prayer that goes up to the Father through the intercession of the Virgin Mary”; where “hope is strengthened because of the journey we must make until the final goal is reached”; and where “charity is lived with an abundance of the heart in recognizing the various forms of mercy the Lord has left us”.

At the end of the celebration, Bishop Ruperto Cruz Santos of Antipolo — who had concelebrated alongside Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown, and a number of priests — thanked Archbishop Fisichella, recalling that in 2021, the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines had asked that the cathedral be made into an international shrine. The proclamation was made on 26 January (2024) in the presence of 80 bishops from across the country.