HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS WEEK...

BASILICA MENORI: POPE GRANTS MANAOAG SHRINE THE TITLE OF 'MINOR BASILICA' 

OCT 14 --PHOTO --FROM SHRINE TO 'BASILICAMINORE' A procession during the Manaoag
town fiesta in 2012 leaves the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan province. WILLIE LOMIBAO/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON. “Pope Francis has granted the title Minor Basilica to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag. The Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan is immensely blessed,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in his Twitter account. Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19. The Manaoag shrine houses the image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, which most Catholics believe is miraculous. According to a CBCP post, the shrine is also a parish church of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. The shrine is an affiliate of the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Spiritual benefits ---Villegas said this means the spiritual benefits that one gains by visiting the papal basilicas will also be received by those visiting the Shrine of Manaoag. “The devotion to Our Lady of Manaoag has helped deepen the piety of many Catholics not only in Pangasinan but throughout the country,” the CBCP post said. For Catholics, according to www.stspeterandpaulbasilica.com, a basilica is a church that has been accorded special privileges by the Pope. Historical value ---“Minor basilicas are significant churches in Rome and elsewhere in the world that meet certain criteria and are given special ecclesiastical privileges,” a post on the website says, citing the 1989 Vatican document Domus Ecclesiae. “Minor basilicas are traditionally named because of their antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth, and/or significance as centers of worship,” it says. “A basilica must ‘stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy.’” * READ MORE...

(ALSO) The Catholic Church can have it both ways: CNN writer suggests 3 ways the Catholic church should embrace gay rights 

By John Sutter, CNN -OCT 14 --PHOTO: Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for
his general audience
at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday, October 8. With his penchant for crowd-pleasing and spontaneous acts of compassion, the Pope has earned high praise from fellow Catholics and others since he replaced Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013. Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday, October 8. With his penchant for crowd-pleasing and spontaneous acts of compassion, the Pope has earned high praise from fellow Catholics and others since he replaced Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS: 1. The Catholic church issues a new statement on the inclusion of gay people 2. John Sutter says the statement is an advance -- but doesn't go nearly far enough 3. He suggests three steps the church could take to actually include LGBT people (Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and creator of CNN's Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. E-mail him at ctl@cnn.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.) (CNN) -- The Catholic church can't have it both ways on gay rights. Either it must take steps to accept gay and lesbian people as part of its flock -- including them as full members, embracing their unions, decrying Catholic schools that fire gay and lesbian teachers and calling for the full protection of LGBT people around the world.

Or it can go back to emphasizing its condemnation of homosexual acts as "intrinsically disordered," as it does in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The current middle ground -- with church leaders saying "homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community," but not fully embracing them as equal humans in the church and under the law -- is unsustainable and dangerous. Gay rights groups cheered on Monday when a draft document from a group of bishops and priests suggested the church could be more welcoming to the gay community. "Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community," they wrote. "Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home." But on Tuesday the Vatican backtracked from its statements, saying it did not want to create "the impression of a positive evaluation" of same-sex relationships. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Catholic bishops veto gay-friendly statements leaving Pope Francis the loser 

OCT 20 --PHOTO: Pope Francis arrives for the last day of the synod in the Vatican on Saturday. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images --Synod On the Themes of Family Is Held At Vatican.
Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people. In the final report of an extraordinary synod on the family which has exposed deep divides in the church hierarchy, there is no mention – as there had been in a draft version – of the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer. Nor is there any recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners can give each other.

A paragraph entitled “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation” – itself a distinctly cooler tone than “welcoming homosexual persons” – refers to church teaching, saying there can be “not even a remote” comparison between gay unions and heterosexual marriage. “Nevertheless,” it adds, “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.” They should not suffer from discrimination, it adds. But the shift in tone is clear. And, in a potentially stark sign of the discomfort provoked among many bishop, even this watered-down passage failed to pass the two-thirds majority needed for it to be approved. One hundred and eighteen bishops voted for the text and 62 against. A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the voting numbers had been released at the behest of Francis, who wanted the process to be transparent.

Because the names of the bishops were not released, however, it was unclear whether the paragraph’s failure to pass was due to a protest vote by progressive bishops who had wanted to keep more of the original wording. At any rate, in a speech to the bishops which received a four-minute standing ovation, Francis showed no sign of disappointment, insisting that disagreement and debate was an intrinsic part of the synod process. “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … if everyone had agreed with one another or had kept silent in a false and acquiescent peace,” he said. * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO Related reports: Lady of Manaoag: Blue to purple 

LENTEN RITUAL Devotees pray for intercession before the image of Our Lady of the Rosary
of Manaoag in Pangasinan province, which is part of the traditional Visita Iglesia (church visits) among the faithful during Holy Week. WILLIE LOMIBAO/Contributor.

MANAOAG, Pangasinan—On ordinary days, the image of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag wears a sky blue cape with matching secondary veil and apron. But at the start of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, her vestment is changed to purple. “Her dress goes with the color of the season. So, now, she wears a purple dress because that’s the color of Lent. It has a penitential character,” said Fr. Ronald Mactal, chaplain and liturgist of the pilgrimage site in Manaoag town, Pangasinan province. On the night of Black Saturday, the Lady’s dress will be changed to either white or gold to symbolize Easter, a time for celebration. “The Virgin Mary goes with us as we journey with our pilgrimage,” Mactal said.

Select group ---The task of regularly dressing up and cleaning the more than 400-year-old image of “Apo Baket,” as devotees call her, is performed by a select group of church employees and volunteers. “We follow a protocol. We dress her like a queen,” said Mactal. “Every month, we would lower her at night from the altar through an elevator and at the sacristy at the back of the altar, we change or clean her vestments,” said Artist Glenn Lopez, 33, a volunteer. A carpet is first laid out on the floor of the sacristy where the icon is brought down from the altar.
“Then we light a candle as a sign of veneration, then we pray. After that, we dress her up,” said Mactal.
Accessories—the crown, halo, rosary and scepter—are first removed and laid out on a table in the sacristy.
“Then we remove the vestments. First, we take out the second veil, then the cape and finally, the apron. We would dust them off. Then her face is cleaned and then, her jewels,” Lopez said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Virgin Mary’ draws hundreds of Malaysian Catholics  

PHOTO: Roman Catholic devotees offer prayers in front of an image said to be of the Virgin Mary
who appeared on the window of a Malaysian hospital in Subang on Nov. 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO. --KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Hundreds of Catholics have gathered in prayer and worship outside a Malaysian hospital after seeing an image said to resemble the Virgin Mary on one of the windows. Pictures of the image have gone viral among local Christians on Facebook and large crowds have gathered at the Sime Darby Medical Centre just outside Kuala Lumpur. Those assembled Sunday maintained they can now also see an image of an adult Jesus Christ just two windows away from His mother. Nearly 100 Catholics were still at the hospital Sunday, lighting candles, singing hymns and saying prayers. Several tourist buses added to the congestion.

Some have come from as far as Singapore, over 300 kilometers (187 miles) away, to see the image on a seventh-floor window, which they describe as a miracle. “We believe Mary, mother of God, has a message for us, as she is looking down on us and then at a Malaysian flag. We can also see Jesus and He is also moving, they are not static,” Eunice Fernandez, who lives nearby, told AFP. The 54-year-old housewife dismissed claims the image could be a hoax. Sime Darby, which is primarily a plantations conglomerate, could not immediately be reached for comment. Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of Malaysian Catholic newsletter The Herald, told AFP the Church would need to investigate and verify the authenticity of the images and “the experiences of the witnesses.” “It could be private revelations. We have to make sure they are not imagined but real apparitions,” he said. Catholics make up a sizeable minority in Muslim-dominated Malaysia. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Crowds flock to Virgin ‘miracle’ tree in New Jersey  

PHOTO: A woman reaches out to grab a tree with a knot that people say looks like Our Lady of
Guadalupe on July 24, 2012 on Bergenline Avenue in West New York, New Jersey. Fervent Catholics in this crime-ridden New Jersey town are flocking to what they say is the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary’s image in a tree trunk. AFP/STAN HONDA. WEST NEW YORK, New Jersey–Fervent Catholics in a crime-ridden New Jersey town are flocking to what they say is the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary’s image in a tree trunk. On Tuesday, a crowd of several dozen people stood around the tree, praying, taking photos and swapping stories of what they call a miracle.West New York, just across the Hudson from Manhattan, has been better known for crime, a depressed economy and a mayor who along with his son faces federal computer hacking charges.

But the town’s central Bergenline Avenue is now the unlikely setting for a diminutive Ginkgo biloba tree with a knot that, worshippers claim, has the form of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Catholic Church has distanced itself from the supposed miracle and there’s no shortage of scoffers in West New York, a tough place with a high Latin American immigrant population. Yet on a sweltering summer’s day, worshipers showed no sign of losing faith. Boisterous and implacable, they vowed to stay put until the town’s troubled mayor, Felix Roque, protects the tree for good.
“We want to build a monument,” said Maria Baez, 35, one of the first to announce she’d seen the Virgin at the tree and now one of the stalwarts mounting day-and-night vigils.* READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Pope grants Manaoag shrine the title of ‘minor basilica’


FROM SHRINE TO BASILICAMINORE A procession during the Manaoag town fiesta in 2012 leaves the Shrine ofOur Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan province. WILLIE LOMIBAO/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON



Pope in PH

MANILA, OCTOBER 20, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Tina G. Santos - A few months before his visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis has given the title “minor basilica” to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan province.

“Pope Francis has granted the title Minor Basilica to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag. The Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan is immensely blessed,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in his Twitter account.

Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19.

The Manaoag shrine houses the image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, which most Catholics believe is miraculous.
According to a CBCP post, the shrine is also a parish church of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. The shrine is an affiliate of the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Spiritual benefits

Villegas said this means the spiritual benefits that one gains by visiting the papal basilicas will also be received by those visiting the Shrine of Manaoag.

“The devotion to Our Lady of Manaoag has helped deepen the piety of many Catholics not only in Pangasinan but throughout the country,” the CBCP post said.

For Catholics, according to www.stspeterandpaulbasilica.com, a basilica is a church that has been accorded special privileges by the Pope.

Historical value

“Minor basilicas are significant churches in Rome and elsewhere in the world that meet certain criteria and are given special ecclesiastical privileges,” a post on the website says, citing the 1989 Vatican document Domus Ecclesiae.

“Minor basilicas are traditionally named because of their antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth, and/or significance as centers of worship,” it says. “A basilica must ‘stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy.’”

* The official website of Manila Cathedral, which has also been named a minor basilica, says the traditional manner by which a church is elevated to the rank of a minor basilica is through a petition by the bishop in whose diocese the church is found.

Petition to Pope

“The bishop, with the concurrence of the episcopal conference of the given country, makes a petition to the Pope through the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship that the central church of his diocese be elevated to the status and dignity of a minor basilica,” according to an article posted on the website.

“A bishop may undertake such a petition through a widespread consensus in the diocese and among other bishops that the specific church plays a prominent and significant role in the religious life of the country and that the splendor of the liturgical ceremonies performed therein is extraordinary.”

Apart from the Manaoag shrine and Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, other minor basilicas include Basilica de San Martin de Tours in Taal, Batangas province; San Sebastian Church in Quiapo, Manila; Basilica del Santo Nińo in Cebu City; and Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

FROM CNN INTERNATIONAL

3 ways the Catholic church should embrace gay rights By John D. Sutter, CNN October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)


PHOTO: Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday, October 8. With his penchant for crowd-pleasing and spontaneous acts of compassion, the Pope has earned high praise from fellow Catholics and others since he replaced Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013. Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday, October 8. With his penchant for crowd-pleasing and spontaneous acts of compassion, the Pope has earned high praise from fellow Catholics and others since he replaced Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013.



By CNN writer John D. Sutter

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
The Catholic church issues a new statement on the inclusion of gay people

John Sutter says the statement is an advance -- but doesn't go nearly far enough

He suggests three steps the church could take to actually include LGBT people

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and creator of CNN's Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. E-mail him at ctl@cnn.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- The Catholic church can't have it both ways on gay rights.

Either it must take steps to accept gay and lesbian people as part of its flock -- including them as full members, embracing their unions, decrying Catholic schools that fire gay and lesbian teachers and calling for the full protection of LGBT people around the world.

Or it can go back to emphasizing its condemnation of homosexual acts as "intrinsically disordered," as it does in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The current middle ground -- with church leaders saying "homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community," but not fully embracing them as equal humans in the church and under the law -- is unsustainable and dangerous.

Gay rights groups cheered on Monday when a draft document from a group of bishops and priests suggested the church could be more welcoming to the gay community. "Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community," they wrote. "Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?

Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home." But on Tuesday the Vatican backtracked from its statements, saying it did not want to create "the impression of a positive evaluation" of same-sex relationships.

* A generous reading of this flip-flop would be that a divided church is wrestling with a sensitive social issue, on which its members and clergy disagree. My sense is that the church wants to be seen as tolerating gay people -- and therefore not out of touch with the modern world -- without actually embracing them.

That sends a potentially dangerous and confusing message to young LGBT people, who look to the church for moral guidance, and who are more likely to fall prey to homelessness and even to commit suicide than their straight peers. (One report from the Williams Institute at UCLA found 40% of all homeless kids identify as LGBT.)

These kids like that are looking up to Pope Francis, who famously said it's not his place to judge gay and lesbian people.

To his credit, Francis -- the people's pope, the guy who drives a old car and lives in a modest apartment -- is setting the right tone. But the church needs to follow his lead and move quickly toward real inclusion and acceptance of gays, not just tolerance.

Here are three simple ways it could do so:

1. Make a serious push for LGBT rights in Africa

The Catholic church wields significant influence in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to 171 million Catholics, according to a Pew report. Some countries on the continent are known to persecute LGBT people -- including giving them prison sentences.

Catholic leaders have spoken out against the death penalty and violence being used against LGBT people. But they should go further.

In their statement, church leaders said on Monday that it is not "acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology."

However, those very tools should be used to push for equality where it's needed most. Catholic leaders in Africa not only should speak out forcefully against discrimination and violence against LGBT people but also should work toward guaranteeing their safety and acceptance.

2. Embrace same-sex marriage

Catholic people are relatively welcoming to the idea of same-sex marriage or civil unions -- especially in the United States. According to a 2010 survey of 1,015 American Catholic adults, three-quarters support those practices.

A poll last week found 42% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage, specifically. Globally, 30% of Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to a poll released this year. The church, meanwhile, in its report on Monday, continues to assert that "unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman."

Catholicism isn't truly welcoming to gay people until it updates that policy.

Regardless of public opinion, it's the inclusive and fair thing to do. Meanwhile, the church acknowledges "it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners" in same-sex unions.

To hold that belief, it needs to act on it.

3. Stop the firings of gay teachers

It's become a sadly common occurrence for gay and lesbian teachers at Catholic schools to be fired when the administration learns that a man in Seattle has a husband or that a woman in Michigan becomes pregnant while in a same-sex relationship.

"The discharged teachers, of course, are the most seriously injured, but so are all the people associated with the schools -- students, graduates, parents, and staff," Charles J. Reid, Jr. wrote for the Huffington Post. "The Catholic school system is diminished in the eyes of the public. And the church as a whole is made to suffer."

Again, the emphasis should be on the students. What are they to think of institutions that would fire their role models simply because of who they are?

There are signs of hope. Nuns from Marian High School, in Michigan, where a lesbian teacher was fired, say they are rethinking their policies. "Pope Francis has brought a sense of hope to our lives and encourages us to look at our Church with new eyes,"

Sister Mary Jane Herb says in a letter posted on Facebook. "No, it is not likely that doctrine will change; however the Pope emphasizes that the values of mercy, inclusion and compassion need to be included in our response to complex situations."

It's unclear, however, whether the fired teacher, Barbara Webb, will be reinstated.

A Change.org petition in her support has 72,000 signatures.

More-inclusive dialog should be celebrated, sure.

But it shouldn't be conflated with actual acceptance.

FROM THE GUARDIAN DOT COM, UK

Catholic bishops veto gay-friendly statements leaving Pope Francis the loser Lizzy Davies in Rome The Observer, Sunday 19 October 2014

Final report of Roman Catholic extraordinary synod on the family removes talk of ‘welcoming’ gay people - Synod On the Themes of Family Is Held At Vatican


Pope Francis arrives for the last day of the synod in the Vatican on Saturday. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people.

In the final report of an extraordinary synod on the family which has exposed deep divides in the church hierarchy, there is no mention – as there had been in a draft version – of the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer. Nor is there any recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners can give each other.

A paragraph entitled “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation” – itself a distinctly cooler tone than “welcoming homosexual persons” – refers to church teaching, saying there can be “not even a remote” comparison between gay unions and heterosexual marriage.

“Nevertheless,” it adds, “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.” They should not suffer from discrimination, it adds. But the shift in tone is clear. And, in a potentially stark sign of the discomfort provoked among many bishop, even this watered-down passage failed to pass the two-thirds majority needed for it to be approved.

One hundred and eighteen bishops voted for the text and 62 against. A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the voting numbers had been released at the behest of Francis, who wanted the process to be transparent.

Because the names of the bishops were not released, however, it was unclear whether the paragraph’s failure to pass was due to a protest vote by progressive bishops who had wanted to keep more of the original wording.

At any rate, in a speech to the bishops which received a four-minute standing ovation, Francis showed no sign of disappointment, insisting that disagreement and debate was an intrinsic part of the synod process. “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … if everyone had agreed with one another or had kept silent in a false and acquiescent peace,” he said.

* It was the synod’s other highly controversial subject – considering whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take holy communion – that included the only other sections to fail to muster the necessary two-thirds majority.

Walter Kasper, a German cardinal known in media circles as “the pope’s theologian” because of his closeness to Francis, has been the key backer of a move to allow more people access to the sacraments. But, in an indication of how far his proposal was from gaining a consensus among his global peers, the sections dealing with the thorny issue were guarded and merely noted that there was a clear clash of views. “The question will be further explored,” said the report.

Thomas Rosica, Lombardi’s English language assistant, said the sections without two-thirds majorities had not been “completely rejected”. He stressed that it was “not a magisterial document” but “a work in progress” that provided the basis for another synod next autumn.

The final report will come as a blow to those in and outside the church who had hoped a corner might have been turned in the way Catholic leaders discussed and dealt with homosexuality – even if not even the most optimistic of followers had been expecting a change in doctrine, according to which “homosexual acts” are “intrinsically disordered”.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group in the United States, said it was “very disappointing that the synod’s final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included”.

“Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples,” he told Reuters.

The draft released last Monday had been hailed by some church observers and gay rights groups as “a stunning change” in how the Catholic hierarchy talked about gay people. It had been written with a voice that seemed to echo closely Francis’s own, pragmatically pastoral phrase: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”

Exploring the idea of extending mercy to people considered to be in “irregular” situations, it asked whether the church was capable of offering gay Catholics “a welcoming home” and “fraternal space”, admitting that despite “moral problems” associated with them, “homosexual unions” provided “precious support” to each other.

No sooner had it been released, however, than leading conservatives began to speak out against the text. One, American cardinal Raymond Burke, criticised a lack of transparency, saying the mid-point report had not reflected the diverse views of the whole synod.

“A great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable,” he said in an interview.

Burke, a leading doctrinal rigorist in the church who had vocally opposed any move to ease the ban on remarried divorcees taking communion, is currently prefect of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. But he said on Friday he was to be demoted to a lesser post.

Asked by the National Catholic Reporter who had made that decision, he reportedly responded: “Who do you think?”

Vatican observers say that, by calling the first extraordinary synod in nearly three decades and encouraging the nearly 200 bishops taking part to speak their minds during the fortnight-long gathering, Francis, 77, has embraced a radically more collegiate style of church governance than has been seen for decades. But although the Argentinian wanted to listen to what the bishops had to say, he may not always have liked what he heard.

Ever since his election last March, he has made clear his belief that the church needs to become more inclusive and understanding of real people’s lives if it is to survive, let alone grow.

RELATED NEWS REPORTS ON MANAOAG:

Lady of Manaoag: Blue to purple
By Gabriel Cardinoza |Inquirer Northern Luzon2:07 am | Tuesday, April 15th, 2014


LENTEN RITUAL Devotees pray for intercession before the image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan province, which is part of the traditional Visita Iglesia (church visits) among the faithful during Holy Week. WILLIE LOMIBAO/Contributor

MANAOAG, Pangasinan—On ordinary days, the image of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag wears a sky blue cape with matching secondary veil and apron.

But at the start of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, her vestment is changed to purple.

“Her dress goes with the color of the season. So, now, she wears a purple dress because that’s the color of Lent. It has a penitential character,” said Fr. Ronald Mactal, chaplain and liturgist of the pilgrimage site in Manaoag town, Pangasinan province.

On the night of Black Saturday, the Lady’s dress will be changed to either white or gold to symbolize Easter, a time for celebration.

“The Virgin Mary goes with us as we journey with our pilgrimage,” Mactal said.

Select group

The task of regularly dressing up and cleaning the more than 400-year-old image of “Apo Baket,” as devotees call her, is performed by a select group of church employees and volunteers.

“We follow a protocol. We dress her like a queen,” said Mactal.

“Every month, we would lower her at night from the altar through an elevator and at the sacristy at the back of the altar, we change or clean her vestments,” said Artist Glenn Lopez, 33, a volunteer.

A carpet is first laid out on the floor of the sacristy where the icon is brought down from the altar.

“Then we light a candle as a sign of veneration, then we pray. After that, we dress her up,” said Mactal.

Accessories—the crown, halo, rosary and scepter—are first removed and laid out on a table in the sacristy.

“Then we remove the vestments. First, we take out the second veil, then the cape and finally, the apron. We would dust them off. Then her face is cleaned and then, her jewels,” Lopez said.

* Cleaning usually takes 30 minutes. But if the vestment is changed, it can take about an hour.

Always a new dress

“If we dress her for her feasts, it takes us more than three hours because she always wears a new dress for these occasions,” Lopez said.


New dresses from donors are worn during the town fiesta, on every third Wednesday of Easter (May 7) and during the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary every Oct. 7.

“We already have a lineup of donors up to 2017. They have been pleading that they be given a chance,” he said. “There has to be a social dimension also. So when you donate, you have to also give something for the poor. I think the Blessed Mother will like this better because you are not only clothing her but also the poor.”

Some donations have intricate embroideries made of gold thread and cost a fortune. Donated dresses have been piling up. Mactal said experts from the National Museum had been consulted on what to do with them.

“Out of the 300 pieces, only 10 percent are of good quality. The rest, we can give them away. So rather than burn them, we cut them into small pieces and distribute them to the people who come here during the feasts,” said the priest.

He said that during Good Friday, people lined up at the back of the altar to touch the dress of Apo Baket.

Touch

“There’s a biblical passage that says that the people during the time of Jesus wanted to touch His cloak because just by touching it, they would be cured,” Mactal said.

“We have heard testimonies on the good things the vestment relic had done to them, either they were cured from their illnesses or something good happened to them. I was very happy about it,” he said.

“There have been many miracles. Some are being reported. We just do not want to highlight it. But people themselves, they are the ones doing it as witnesses. The miracle continues,” Mactal said.

‘Virgin Mary’ draws hundreds of Malaysian Catholics Agence France-Presse8:08 pm | Sunday, November 11th, 2012


Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag Birhen ng Rosaryo ng Manaoag Our Lady of Manaoag 1.JPG The ivory bejeweled image enshrined at the main retablo of the shrine. Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag Honored in Roman Catholic Church Major shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Manaoag, Manaoag, Pangasinan, Philippines Philippines Feast Third Sunday after Easter, first Sunday of October (as Our Lady of the Rosary) Attributes fair complexion, with child Jesus, rosary, marshall's baton, royal regalia Patronage Manaoag, the sick, Pangasinense and Ilocano peoples. FROM WIKIPEDIA.


An image said to be the Virgin Mary appears on the window of a Malaysian hospital in Subang outside Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO/MOHD RASFAN

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Hundreds of Catholics have gathered in prayer and worship outside a Malaysian hospital after seeing an image said to resemble the Virgin Mary on one of the windows.

Pictures of the image have gone viral among local Christians on Facebook and large crowds have gathered at the Sime Darby Medical Centre just outside Kuala Lumpur.

Those assembled Sunday maintained they can now also see an image of an adult Jesus Christ just two windows away from His mother.

Nearly 100 Catholics were still at the hospital Sunday, lighting candles, singing hymns and saying prayers. Several tourist buses added to the congestion.

Some have come from as far as Singapore, over 300 kilometers (187 miles) away, to see the image on a seventh-floor window, which they describe as a miracle.

“We believe Mary, mother of God, has a message for us, as she is looking down on us and then at a Malaysian flag. We can also see Jesus and He is also moving, they are not static,” Eunice Fernandez, who lives nearby, told AFP.
The 54-year-old housewife dismissed claims the image could be a hoax.

Sime Darby, which is primarily a plantations conglomerate, could not immediately be reached for comment.


Roman Catholic devotees offer prayers in front of an image said to be of the Virgin Mary who appeared on the window of a Malaysian hospital in Subang on Nov. 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO

Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of Malaysian Catholic newsletter The Herald, told AFP the Church would need to investigate and verify the authenticity of the images and “the experiences of the witnesses.”

“It could be private revelations. We have to make sure they are not imagined but real apparitions,” he said.
Catholics make up a sizeable minority in Muslim-dominated Malaysia.

Crowds flock to Virgin ‘miracle’ tree in New Jersey Agence France-Presse1:39 pm | Wednesday, July 25th, 2012


A woman reaches out to grab a tree with a knot that people say looks like Our Lady of Guadalupe on July 24, 2012 on Bergenline Avenue in West New York, New Jersey. Fervent Catholics in this crime-ridden New Jersey town are flocking to what they say is the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary’s image in a tree trunk. AFP/STAN HONDA

WEST NEW YORK, New Jersey–Fervent Catholics in a crime-ridden New Jersey town are flocking to what they say is the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary’s image in a tree trunk.

On Tuesday, a crowd of several dozen people stood around the tree, praying, taking photos and swapping stories of what they call a miracle.

West New York, just across the Hudson from Manhattan, has been better known for crime, a depressed economy and a mayor who along with his son faces federal computer hacking charges.

But the town’s central Bergenline Avenue is now the unlikely setting for a diminutive Ginkgo biloba tree with a knot that, worshippers claim, has the form of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Catholic Church has distanced itself from the supposed miracle and there’s no shortage of scoffers in West New York, a tough place with a high Latin American immigrant population.

Yet on a sweltering summer’s day, worshipers showed no sign of losing faith.

Boisterous and implacable, they vowed to stay put until the town’s troubled mayor, Felix Roque, protects the tree for good.

“We want to build a monument,” said Maria Baez, 35, one of the first to announce she’d seen the Virgin at the tree and now one of the stalwarts mounting day-and-night vigils.

* Already the base of the tree and an adjacent fire hydrant are draped in rosaries, votive candles, flowers and pictures celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe, a major figure in Mexican Catholicism.

Police have erected a metal barricade around the tree and a patrol car is parked alongside to ensure safety for both crowd and tree. Roque has been quoted in the local press as saying that the town spends $1,000 a day to manage the situation.

According to Baez, the extraordinary chain of events began early on the morning of July 10, when a woman was traveling down the avenue to go to work.

“She saw a light and it was the Virgin. She went on to work, but she was frightened,” Baez explained. The woman, named Carmen Lopez, tried to alert police and the mayor but received short shrift. Soon after, Baez says she experienced a similar vision.

“When I got here I saw her: she said ‘I’m the Virgin,'” Baez recounted to a chorus of admiring “wows” from others gathered on the sidewalk by the tree. “I was speechless.”

Since then, there’ve been no reported sightings of Jesus’ mother herself, but the knot in the tree is said to bear an uncanny resemblance to famous pictures of the Guadalupe Virgin in her cloak.

The image is framed by an oval shaped split in the tree’s bark and a dark coloring inside is said to match the shape of the cloaked figure.
Ruben Rafael, 49, recently retired from the US Navy, said this was his fifth visit to the tree.

“I was convinced,” he said. “There’s a lot of crime in this town. So this helps us Catholics, Christians. She’s here to cure the pain in this town.”

Not everyone is so believing.

Two men passing shook their heads, smiling dismissively.

“I respect every religion, but really I don’t believe this at all,” Ismael Garcia, a 27-year-old carpet salesman, said.

His friend, Giovanni Valenti, an assistant mechanic, 36, pointed at the parked police car and said “they should be spending this money on something else.”

Valenti pointed out that many of the Ginkgo trees lining the street have splits in the bark and knots that could be imagined to represent some picture or another.

“Tons of these trees have it. It’s normal for them in this climate. It’s a law of physics,” he said.

Standing by the tree, another man slyly pulled out a cellphone and showed a reporter a picture of a knot taken in a similar Ginkgo. The knot somewhat resembled a human face, complete with an angular nose.

But he was not ready reject the faithful crowd entirely.

“I’m a Catholic and I believe very much in the Virgin, but the picture in this knot is just a coincidence,” Ed Venicio, 35, said.

“However, I believe that whether or not it’s real, the important thing is that it motivates people’s faith. It gets them to go back to church and remember that God exists.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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