The Philippines finally has a minor basilica in honor of the great preacher of grace, St Dominic.
On 14 January 2023, a historic parish church first founded by the early Dominican missionaries in the Philippines was formally declared a minor basilica by decree of His Holiness Pope Francis.
The parish church of St Dominic, located at the heart of San Carlos City, Pangasinan in the northern part of Luzon island, Philippines, is now the only minor basilica in the country under the patronage of our Holy Father Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers. First established in 1587, the same year the earliest Dominican missionaries arrived in the Philippines, the present church is a legacy of their missionary work and is now part of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, headed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, DD of the Priestly Fraternities of St Dominic.
The solemn declaration and the Eucharistic celebration were presided over by Archbishop Charles Brown, DD, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. Concelebrating were Archbishop Villegas and our very own fr. Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, OP, Master of the Order, who preached the homily.
Also present were Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, DD, likewise a member of the Priestly Fraternities of St Dominic, and a number of the Dominican priests, brothers, sisters, laity, and other members of the Dominican family. Cardinal Advincula blessed the Pontifical insignia that symbolized the new status of the church.
The Master, fr Timoner, hailed the church as the fifth minor basilica in the world, and the first in Asia, to honor our saintly founder.
The Master also urged those present to be inspired anew by the example of St Dominic and to take this opportunity to renew their commitment to spreading the truth of the Gospel.
“[M]y hope for all of us Dominicans [is] to read again the life of St. Dominic and be renewed in our vocation as preachers of the Gospel,” he said.
Calling to mind St Dominic’s extraordinary patience when it came to reaching out to those who have fallen astray from the faith, the Master invoked the famous story of how the founder converted the heretic innkeeper of Toulouse.
“As we read again the life of our holy founder,” he said, “I hope we will rediscover how Dominic’s preaching did not only convert people to the true faith, but also how his experience of encounter and dialogue transformed him in a profound way.”
The Master also pointed out the feelings of indifference which plague the church today. He called to mind how St Dominic, moved by the suffering of those around him, unhesitatingly offered to sell his precious manuscripts and books for the relief of the needy.
“The charism of preaching he received propelled Dominic to remind the Church of her universal mission to preach the Gospel, that preaching is a mission, not of a few chosen ones, but of all members of the Church. It is a charism shared by all the members of the Dominican family,” fr. Timoner said.
The Master exhorted everyone to share in the mission of bringing the light of the Gospel to all corners of the earth—the same mission which prompted the Dominicans to reach the old town of Binalatongan (now San Carlos City) and to found the parish of St Dominic more than four hundred years ago.
“The mission of the Order to preach Veritas [truth] is an important antidote to another pernicious pandemic — fake news, half-truths, which are in fact half-lies,” the Master added.
Historically speaking, the church and the town operated as a center for missionary activity for the early Dominicans who collaborated with other religious orders for the spread of the Gospel in the Philippines. The first church was simple, made of bamboo and nipa, but its location was later transferred to higher ground due to seasonal flooding. After a number of destructive calamities and rebuilding, the present church stands at 250 years old.
Adding to its historical significance, it is said the Dominican missionaries St Dominic Ybañez de Erquicia and St Francis Gil de Federich, martyred in Japan and Vietnam, respectively, ministered to this parish.
The declaration of the church of St Dominic as a minor basilica is a testament to the lasting legacy of Dominican missionary work in the far east.
As the first Dominicans left their footprints on the soil of Luzon, they fulfilled the mandate of the Lord: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
A minor basilica is a church elevated to such status by the Pope in recognition of its importance in the life of the local church, as well as its historical, religious, and cultural significance. All over the world, there are only four major basilicas, all found in Rome, namely: St Mary Major, St John Lateran, St Paul outside the walls, and of course, the iconic St Peter’s on Vatican hill. The rest are minor basilicas.
Pangasinan is also known for another minor basilica under the care of the Dominicans, the shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag, an affiliate of St Mary Major.
Report from fr. Louie R. Coronel, OP and the Social Media Department of the Dominican Province of the Philippines. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.