LIMASAWA ISAND, SOUTHERN LEYTE, PHILIPPINES – The historic quincentennial commemoration of the First Christian Mass in the Far East on March 31, 2021 was celebrated solemnly and with limited people in attendance, compared to the previous years before the pandemic.
Many people who went there got drenched, as they were unprepared for the rain, since in the past the weather was always sunny.
Only pilgrims and guests, whose names were included in the master list approved by the provincial and municipal government, were allowed to attend for easy control management. Boats without government registration were not allowed to ferry pilgrims to and from the town. Only 500 guests were planned to be present, but more than 1,000 people attended the once in a lifetime celebration.
The Diocese of Maasin Bishop Precioso Cantillas led the 500th anniversary celebration by holding a Pontifical Mass at the Magallanes Shrine in Limasawa Island.
The Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown sent a message, read on his behalf, saying that the Church in the Philippines, after 500 years, is “invited anew to go forth and “become a community of authentic missionary disciples.”
Archbishop Brown was expected to be present at the event to deliver the homily. But, according to Bishop Cantillas, an advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs requesting all officials of embassies in the country to restrict travel, impeded him from attending the occasion. However, present during the significant event was Archbishop Emeritus of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, Archbishop Francesco Panfilo.
After the above Mass, a reenactment of the First Christian Easter Mass was impressively presented by the various actors and artists of Southern Leyte.
A fluvial procession, carrying the pilgrim image of Sto. Niño de Cebu, was earlier held around nine o’clock in the morning from Maasin City to Limasawa Island.