DAVAO CTY (MindaNews / 20 July) – Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo, OMI, has proposed an annual vigil for peace at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on July 16, the same day it was reconsecrated half a year after it was desecrated on January 27 with two bomb explosions that killed 21 persons and injured a hundred others.
Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines led the reconsecretaion rites last Tuesday, July 16 on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, attended by Catholic parishioners as well as Muslim leaders led by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.
In his homily at the mass during the reconsecration, Quevedo, who served as parish priest in Jolo as a young Oblate, noted that July 16 was the 74th anniversary of the detonation of the first atomic bomb at the atomic testing grounds in New Mexico, United States, which marked the “beginning of a new and terrible era of war and destruction,” citing how atomic bombs destroyed the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
He said every year since 1945, on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a vigil for peace and nuclear disarmament is held near the atomic testing ground of New Mexico.
“Perhaps such a vigil could be held in Jolo every year in this temple of God, so that the blood spilled profusely on this sacred ground may sprout and bear the fruits of peace and solidarity among the peoples of this beautiful archipelago,” Quevedo said.
He envisioned that from the new Cathedral, “words and sacred songs will rise to heaven, words and songs not of hatred or revenge, but of mutual respect and openness of mind and heart, words and songs of understanding and forgiveness, of compassion and love.”
“These are surely the words and songs, the feelings and sentiments in the hearts of the families of victims who fell tragically on that holy Sunday, (six) months ago on the 27th of January,” Quevedo said as he asked the families of the victims to stand up.
The January 27 bombing came three days before Jolo Bishop Angelito Lampon, who served as Bishop of the Vicariate of Jolo for 20 years, was installed as the fourth Arcbhishop of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, succeeding Quevedo, who retired.
Pope Francis appointed Fr. Romeo Saniel, MI, as the Apostolic Administrator of the Jolo Vicariate.
Quevedo said God blessed Jolo with “two marvelous gifts” on July 16: the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the patronal fiesta of Jolo and the reconsecration of the newly-reconstructed cathedral.
He also noted how Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is “singularly honored by Catholics and Muslims alike” as Mary in the Christian Bible and Maryam, mother of Isah or Jesus in the Qur’an.
“In fact Maryam is mentioned more times in the Qur’an than in our own Bible. In the Qur’an Maryam is the only woman uniquely blessed by God to give birth to the prophet Isah, Jesus, while remaining a Virgin. Maryam, the Virgin Mother,” he said, as he urged those present to “gaze at the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel above the altar.”
“There is Maryam holding in her arms the baby Isah, Jesus. This is the reason Mary, Maryam, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, is so honored and venerated by Muslims and Catholics alike,” he said.
He explained how the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is “a joyful fiesta of these two Abrahamic religions, Islam and Christianity.”
Also present at the reconsecration rites were Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Lampon, the principal celebrant of the mass, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz, Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Pena and other priests and nuns.
Quevedo said the Cathedral was consecrated anew “because it was once desecrated by inhumane violence and the criminal and horrible rejection of the sacredness of human life.”
“Innocent Sunday worshippers lost their lives here, on this very spot. To consecrate this Cathedral is to set it apart as a sacred place, dedicated to the things of God and not to the things of this material world,” he added.
Quevedo described the Cathedral as a “silent but eloquent testimony to the aspirations of different religions to live in harmony and peace.”
‘Today we look at the past with forgiveness. Now we look at the present with gratitude for the grace of this new Cathedral and of a new beginning for Jolo,” Quevedo said.
He also urged the public to “look at the future with hope and trust in the Lord,” that “our aspirations for harmony and peace among peoples of different religious beliefs may be realized.”
“We hope and trust that biases and prejudices may give way to mutual respect and understanding and, yes, to love. This is our prayer, this is our commitment,” added Quevedo.
CBCP News reported that the repair of the damaged cathedral was funded by the Aid to the Church in Need, a Vatican-recognized foundation, and other organizations. (MindaNews)