Manila Cathedral: The basilica of popes

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Dec 06 2014 02:00 PM | Updated as of Dec 06 2014 10:00 PM

2,000 bishops, priests, religious leaders to apologize for ‘sins’

MANILA - A total of 2,000 bishops, priests, and other religious leaders will be apologizing for their sins as Christians and leaders of the church during Pope Francis’ celebration of the Eucharistic Mass at the Manila Cathedral on January 16.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said the Mass, the first of a series of Eucharistic celebrations by Pope Francis in the Philippines, will be a regular one, except that the attendees – composed of religious leaders – will hold a “small ritual.”

“They will ask for God’s forgiveness for their sins, not just as Christians but also as leaders of the Church,” he said.

Asked what the religious leaders will specifically confess before the pope, Tagle said the confession will be more “communal and symbolic.”

The Catholic church has been beset by allegations of corruption and abuses, and Pope Francis – since the start of his leadership – has spoken up about his thoughts against pedophiles and sex abusers.

He said the church leaders’ confessions revolve around the main themes of “obedience, poverty, and chastity.”

“The whole Mass will still be on mercy and compassion. The priests and the religious are reminded that we also need to experience God’s compassion because we are also weak, sinners, and we are always in the hands of a merciful God,” he said.

Asian bishops are also expected to join. “A special feature of the Mass is that it will be multi-lingual,” Tagle said.

Tagle said the Mass will also be a special one since it will be held at the Manila Cathedral, tagged as the country’s premiere basilica.

Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, during their previous visits in the country, held Masses there.

Manila Cathedral Rector Rev. Monsignor Nestor Cerbo said the country needed a cathedral to represent the country’s separation from the diocese of Mexico.

“It’s actually not the first, but it became a basilica in a special way through Pope John Paul II in 1981. He told then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, ‘I will make this a basilica,’” Cerbo said.

He said that before a church becomes a basilica, a petition is made in Rome. “But it was given to us in a silver platter… a ‘Basilica’ is rarely given motu propio. So it’s only fitting that whenever a pope visits the country, he holds a Mass in the Manila Cathedral.”

Cerbo hopes reconstruction work will be finished in time before the visit. He said the reconstruction began two years ago and was not due to Pope Francis’ visit. “We were just blessed the works were made in time.”

He said they are still struggling with the air-conditioning, which is also why they limit the number of people inside the church during Masses.

Most Rev. Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman for the committee on information and media relations, said the Eucharistic Mass will also be open to other dioceses and not specific on Manila.

“There will be ten priests, and five religious from each diocese. Their names were chosen via draw lots.”

Vergara said there will be other opportunities for the public to join Pope Francis.

He said the Eucharistic celebration at the Manila Cathedral is for the spiritual guidance of the leaders of the Catholic church.

“We also look at the Holy Father as a father of the ordained. We look forward to the Pope’s visit dahil mangangaral din siya sa amin [he will also preach to us, guide us],” Vergara said.

Tagle said there is no planned dialogue between the Catholic leaders and Pope Francis on that day.

The Catholic church’s highest leader will be meeting, however, with different religious leaders at the University of Sto. Tomas on January 18.