MANAOAG, Pangasinan, Feb. 22, 2015—Like all Marian devotees, Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle welcomed with great joy the recent solemn proclamation of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag as a minor basilica, which he stressed attests not only to its deep history, but to its spiritual patrimony as well, reminding the faithful that the church edifice effectively symbolizes God’s desire to dwell among His people.

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag was officially designated a Minor Basilica on Feb. 17, 2015. Cardinals Luis Antonio Tagle, Orlando Quevedo, and Gaudencio Rosales were present for the proclamation of the Manaoag Shrine as a basilica. (Photo: Sabins Mejia/Sabins Studio)

“It’s clear as day: God willed to dwell among us. That’s why the Church is also called the ‘people of God.’ As such, it is also the home of God’s children. God is always with us, so rest assured, we can always find refuge in His house,” the prelate said in the homily during the Holy Mass to celebrate the event on Feb. 17.

Emmanuel: God-with-us

For Tagle, by his own admission, a basilica speaks of that truth: that God is with His people.

“And even if it is entrusted to different patrons, like the Blessed Mother and other saints, the basilica becomes for us a reminder of Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with us,” he shared.

Physical reminder of God’s presence

While there are many things that make the invisible God somehow present to the faithful, Tagle explained a basilica, like the new Manaoag Basilica, has an influence unique from all others.

“To the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, many will return just to weep, to unburden themselves of their worries, to ask forgiveness, to seek help, as well as to give thanks and sing praises, because they are all confident of the fact that here they are at home with the Father,” he stressed.

According to him, the presence of a church, of a basilica strongly proclaims: “You are never alone, hindi kayo nagiisa, kapiling ninyo ang Diyos.”

Where God is, so is His mother

Tagle noted the Evangelical significance of God deciding “in the fullness of time” to pitch His tent among the faithful.

He pointed out that “God chose not a building made of stone,” rather He chose a virgin, a lady, who is also called the “New Ark of the Covenant,” Mary, “for in her, the Son of God made man dwelt.”

“It’s only well that we recognize God’s presence in this building. But let us also remember that in a very special way, God dwells in our Blessed Mother, becoming our brother,” he said.

‘Be a reminder to others’

“All of us devotees of the Blessed Mother, we are all one people. I invite you all to be a living witness to the world that God abides with His people. The way Mary as the Ark of the Covenant was the bearer of the presence of God, as this beautiful church reminds people that God is present, I do hope that each of one us, will constantly remind our neighbors that ‘God is,’” he added.

As a term used by canon lawyers and liturgists, “basilica,” the Catholic Encyclopedia details, is a title assigned by formal concession or immemorial custom to certain more important churches, in virtue of which they enjoy privileges of an honorific character which are not always very clearly defined.

Basilicas in this sense, the Catholic Encyclopedia further explains, have two classes: the greater or patriarchal (major), most of which are in Rome, and the lesser (minor), which are more numerous and found worldwide. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)