‘Crowds will still come for Sto. Niño’
There’s no worry of less public attention for Cebu’s biggest religious, cultural feast which coincides with Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines next week.
Fr. Jonas Mejares, O.S.A., rector of the Basilica del Sto. Niño, said they are expecting over 3 million people to come to Cebu City to pay homage to the child Jesus whose feast will be celebrated on Jan. 18.
The number of devotees who visit the basilica during the Fiesta Señor has increased by 500,000 yearly—a trend he said will likely continue this year.
The nine-day novena masses for the Feast of the Sto. Nino starts tomorrow, after a 4:30 am. foot procession “Walk with Jesus” from Fuente Osmeña to the basilica.
“In 2012, 2.2 million people came. The following year, 2.7 million. And last year, we recorded 3.2 million devotees who visited the basilica. I don’t think the number will decrease inspite the fact that Pope Francis will be coming to Manila and Leyte,” said Mejares in a press conference at the Aula Magna of the basilica yesterday.
The more than two-kilometer walk will usher in the 449th fiesta celebration in honor of the Sto. Niño de Cebu.
Fr. Mejares will preside over the 5:30 a.m. Mass at the Pilgrim Center, where this year’s fiesta Hermano and Hermana Mayores will be installed.
The theme of the Fiesta Señor is “Sto. Niño: Hope of the People”, the same as last year’s celebration.
The Augustinian fathers, who have been the caretakers of the basilica and the original image of the Sto. Niño for over four decades, decided to keep last year’s theme in line with the three-year celebration of the 450th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Sto. Niño and of the Augustinian’s presence in the country and the 50th anniversary of the church’s title as a minor basilica.
Anticipating throngs at the daily Masses at the basilica, Mejares appealed to the public to heed security guards and policemen at the church premises.
“If the security guards would no longer allow you to get inside the Pilgrim Center and the basilica, that’s because it’s already full of people. Please do not insist to get inside the church premises anymore,” Mejares said.
After every Mass, people at the Pilgrim Center shall be asked to leave so those who will be attending the next Mass can come in.
Lay ministers will distribute communion during Mass at two kiosks inside the basilica complex and at least five stations outside.
Wide video screens and televisions sets are also installed inside and outside the church to allow people to see the Eucharistic celebrations at the Pilgrim Center.
For safety purposes, steel railings at the Pilgrim Center grounds were replaced to thick ropes.
Except on January 8 and 16 where there are dawn processions, 11 Masses will be held at the outdoor Pilgrim Center everyday leading to the feast day of the Sto. Nino.
The schedules are 4 a.m. (except on Jan. 8 and 16), 5:30 a.m., 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7 p.m.
24 HOURS OPEN
The basilica will be open 24 hours a day tomorrow until Jan. 18.
This has to be done to accommodate the throngs of devotees who come to venerate the original image of the Sto. Niño which is encased in glass at a side chapel in the basilica.
The basilica was opened to the public last Dec. 24 after it was closed for over a year to repair cracks caused by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in October 2013 that also destroyed the church belfry.
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