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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Peñafrancia festivities shift to low gear as threats from COVID-19 prevail

COVID-19 tones down traditional Peñafrancia festivities

MANILA – The traditional Penafrancia festivities will be toned down to the barest minimum in compliance with calls for public safety as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the country.

Caceres Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, said as Bicolanos express gratitude to how the region’s beloved icon called Ina provided refuge in trying times and calamities, with the threats from COVID-19 pandemic, they introduced changes in the traditional celebration while at the same time expressing the same fervent devotion and imploring her maternal protection.

Instead of the traditional novena to the Divino Rostro (Divine Face of Christ) from September 2-10 and the novena to Our Lady of Peñafrancia from September 11-19, at the Peñafrancia Shrine and Basilica Minore, the practice of the devotion is encouraged in the homes of the faithful. The Novena prayers and guide have been made available through social media and the Archdiocese of Caceres website.

While parishes in the archdiocese will hold novenary Masses, all public Mass should adhere to the necessary health protocols. The traditional Pagsungko ni Ina or visits of the revered image will be made in the parishes but there will be no procession before the month of September.

The widely-attended Fiesta Mass on September 20, the Solemnity of Our Lady of Peñafrancia shall be streamed live from the Basilica Minore and parishes are expected to air the livestreaming in their areas for the benefit of their parishioners.

As the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia draws millions of pilgrims and devotees in the span of two weeks, Archbishop Tirona called on everyone to attend the novena Masses in their parishes or follow mainstream broadcasts and the internet. Nobody will be allowed to kiss and touch images. There will be no imposition of the manto, the mantle or cape of the icon, believed to have healing powers, on sick pilgrims.

The well-attended traditional Traslacion and the Fluvial Processions and all other forms of procession are cancelled this year while the images of the Divino Rostro will remain at the Peñafrancia parish Church while that of Our Lady of Peñafrancia will stay at the Basilica Minore.

The Metropolitan of Caceres said the suffragan dioceses of Legazpi, Sorsogon, Daet, Virac and Masbate have been requested to hold novena Masses on the same dates so the devotees residing in their areas may also express their devotion without the need to travel to Naga City.

“While we cancel the traditional Traslacion and Fluvial processions, let us take this as an opportunity for the devotion to become more distinctive and rooted in our families, the domestic Church. This year, we are also invited to reflect on the theme “Fostering Dialogue and Harmony in the Spirit of Mary’s Gentleness and Humility.” The changes in our celebration should inspire3 us to discover how our faith can lead us to be gentle and humble in receiving the grace of God in the face of this pandemic,” Archbishop Tirona said in his Circular.

Meanwhile, Naga City Mayor Nelson S. Legacion said all other civic activities from the annual civic, military parade, competitions and beauty pageants as well as trade fairs will remain cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint press conference held at the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Mayor Legacion said he and Archbishop Tirona hope that with the early decision to suspend the traditional activities and practices, people will no longer go on pilgrimage because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bicolanos devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia began 310 years ago while the celebration of the Feast of the Divino Rostro is on its 138th year. (Melo M. Acuña)

The revered Bicolano icon, the centuries-old Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Caceres Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, DD, Naga City Mayor Nelson S. Legacion and both civil and church officials signing their joint statement on the low-key Peñafrancia festivities this coming September. (File Photo/Melo Acuna and Screen grab photos from Archdiocese of Caceres website)

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