Sto. Niño Basilica tolls De Profundis bells
In commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the October 15, 2013 devastating earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu, a mournful sound emanated from the grounds of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City, as the de profundis bell tolled yesterday.
It was a reminder for people to pray for victims of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake including those who had died, were injured and traumatized.
Slowly and soulfully from out of the depths, the church bells peeled right after the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at the open-air pilgrim center of the Santo Niño Church.
“It was the opportune time to have the bell rung as a way of remembering those who died, suffered during the 2013 earthquake because there are a lot of church-goers,” Fr. Ric Anthony Reyes, OSA, told Cebu Daily News after officiating the Holy Mass.
Reyes explained that the de profundis bell is a type of prayer for the dead.
But yesterday’s Mass and bell ringing were also intended as a thanksgiving after no lives were lost at the Santo Niño Church when the basilica’s belfry crumbled at the height of the tremor.
Although heartbroken over the destruction of the centuries-old belfry, Cebuanos were genuinely grateful to their patron, Santo Niño, for His protection.
Fr. Reyes recalled that he was at the office of the pilgrim center when the tremor shook Cebu and Bohol.
“I was so frightened that I thought that I will be killed,” said the priest.
“Grabe kakusog, wa mi nakadungog sa mga nangahulog nga appliances, only the howling sa linog nga wa ko kasabot. Nakita nako ang anam-anam nahug ang rubble sa basilica, ug ang murag pag-slide sa belfry and its structure,” he added.
(The earthquake was so strong that we were not able to hear the sound of appliances falling. We only heard the howling of the earthquake which I could not understand. Then I saw that rubble started to fall from the basilica, and it seemed like the belfry and its structure were sliding down.)
Reyes said that he was immediately worried about the people attending the 8 a.m. Mass at the time, fearful that the weight of the falling bell tower would crush parts of the basilica and kill the church-goers inside.
In what is largely believed to be a miracle, no one at the Santo Niño Church was hurt during the strong quake.
The bell tower was fully restored in March 2016 after the Aquino administration, through the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), spent P14 million for the restoration of the historic structure.
The basilica is the home of the wooden image of the Sto. Niño which was given as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Queen Juana in 1521. The image of the Child Jesus, which is venerated inside the church, is the country’s oldest icon.
As Sunday’s gospel talked about God’s invitation to follow Him, Reyes urged the people to be constantly reminded of God’s call to conversion, respond, pray always, and be vigilant, especially in times of calamity.
Reyes said prayers have helped people in overcoming disasters, with faith heavily tested during such trying times.
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