Manila (AsiaNews) - To participate in the sufferings of Christ and pray for the Church. This is the purpose of the traditional "visita Iglesia" or visit of the seven churches that involves all Filipino Catholics each year during Lent. The gesture was imported by Spanish missionaries in the XVIII century, and retraces the pilgrimage of the seven Roman basilicas established in the seventeenth century by St. Filippo Neri.
From this year, Filipinos at home and abroad have the opportunity to also make a virtual tour of the churches of Manila, available at the Philippine Bishops Conference website.
Mary Jane Puring, an elderly Catholic from Manila, said: "I was four years old when I made my first 'Visita Iglesia' with my parents and my brothers and still participate in the tradition which is deeply rooted in me and my family. " "The pilgrimage - she adds - helps me to be in communion with God and to participate in the sufferings of Christ on the Cross."
The 'Visit Iglesia' was introduced by Spanish missionaries in the early eighteenth century and has for centuries involved the entire Filipino people. Unlike the pilgrimage of the seven Roman basilicas (Saint John Lateran, St Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross in Jerusalem, San Sebastian) which is dedicated to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, it focuses mainly on the Passion of Christ. The Filipino faithful may choose to visit places of worship in each of the seven churches to meditate on two of the 14 Stations of the Cross.
"This gesture - said Fr Restie de la Pena, a priest of the Archdiocese of Manila - is a way that helps to reflect the seriousness of our sins and spiritual renewal through a concrete gesture. " According to the priest undertaking the pilgrimage as a journey to Calvary helps individuals to understand the meaning of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.
This year, the Philippine Bishops Conference has prepared on its website (www.cbcponline.net) a virtual tour to places of worship in Manila to allow migrants abroad to also make the pilgrimage. The website offers for each church a series of photos and audio files with the steps of the Passion of Christ. The Filipino migrants are around 10 million and over two million living in Muslim countries where there are no churches and public expressions of their faith are prohibited.