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Our Lady of Peñafrancia celebrates 97th year since Canonical Coronation

Ninety-seven years ago, on 20 September 1924, the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia — which was commissioned by Rev. Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, and sculpted by a local artisan — received canonical coronation.

The practice of crowning images began in the 17th century, but became increasingly popular in the late 1800s. A Canonical Coronation is an act of the Pope to crown an image of Christ, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or of St. Joseph. This acknowledges that a specific image, while having great significance for the local faithful, also has universal importance for the Catholic Church.

The Canonical Coronation of Our Lady of Peñafrancia was authorized by Pope Benedict XV on 13 May 1920, in response to the petition of Most Rev. John Bernard McGinley, DD, the then-Bishop of Caceres. The Coronation itself occurred four years later on 20 September 1924, with the Apostolic Delegate, Most Rev. Guiglelmo Piani, DD crowning the revered image at the grounds of the Cathedral, where the Quadricentennial Arch now stands. With the Diocese of Caceres in sede vacante at that time, the celebrations were spearheaded by Rev. Fr. Francisco S. Reyes and Rev. Fr. Casimiro M. Lladoc, who would later become Bishops of Caceres and Bacolod, respectively. The rite was also attended by numerous Church and state dignitaries, led by then-Manila Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty.

Dr. Domingo Abella, in his book, “Bicol Annals,” provides the following account of the Coronation:

“During the week of September 13-20, all roads led to Naga as thousands over thousands of pilgrims from all walks of life packed the streets of the episcopal capital. Solemn pontifical Masses were celebrated daily by the visiting bishops from the 18th to the 21st. During the triduum that preceded the coronation, the people overflowed daily the Cathedral and its surrounding yards and premises where open-air altars stood and Masses were offered continually from early morning to high noon.

The coronation ritual which was a pompous pageant in the afternoon of the 20th climaxed the week-long ceremonies. On the platform erected in the open field fronting the Cathedral sat governors and high civil officials of the Bicol provinces side by side with purple-rocheted prelates. Never had such a congregation been seen hereabouts. As Msgr. Piani, the Pope’s own representative, dressed in pontifical regalia, raised the bejeweled crown and rested it on the head of the statue of Our Lady, the teeming humanity which crowded every available inch of space in the field rung cries of ‘Viva la Virgen!’ amidst the deafening detonation of ringing rockets, blare of band music, and ringing of church bells.

In 1949, 1974 and 1999, the Archdiocese, with much joy, pomp and circumstance, celebrated the 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries of Our Lady’s Canonical Coronation. As we commemorate this Anniversary today, we look forward for the Centennial of the Canonical Coronation of Our Lady of Peñafrancia on 20 September 2024.

Viva la Virgen!


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