The Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is a well-known celebration held in Jaro, Iloilo, Philippines. The event celebrates the venerated image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the patroness of Western Visayas. Pope John Paul II issued a decree of Pontifical coronation for the image and personally executed the rite of coronation in 1981, making it the first Marian image in Asia to be crowned by a Pontiff in person.
The Title of the Virgin Mary
The title “Nuestra Señora de la Purificación y la Candelaria” commemorates Mary’s ritual purification during the Presentation of Jesus. According to Catholic doctrine, Mary was considered sinless and didn’t need to undergo purification, but participated in the ritual anyway to show the way for the purification of all mankind.
Marian Cult and Veneration
The devotion to the Virgin Mary has a rich history in Jaro, Iloilo. The limestone statue of Mary and the Child Jesus was discovered by fishermen in the 16th century and was initially placed in a small niche near the apex of the local church’s central spire. Over the years, the statue grew in size and was transferred to the balcony. Today, the statue is dressed in gold cloth, adorned with crowns and holds a taper in its right hand, symbolizing light and purification.
The Pope's Crowning of the Image
Pope John Paul II declared the statue the patroness of Western Visayas and canonically crowned the image on 21 February 1981. This makes it the only Marian statue in the Philippines to be crowned by the Pontiff in person, instead of a proxy legate.
The National Shrine of Jaro Cathedral
Jaro Cathedral is the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles and has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. The original cathedral was built by Bishop Mariano Cuartero in 1874 and was dedicated to Elizabeth of Hungary. The cathedral was later destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, but was fully restored by Archbishop José María Cuenco by 1956. In 2012, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines approved “National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles” as an additional title for the cathedral.
The Lay Confraternity
The Cofradia de la Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is the shrine’s lay confraternity recognized by the Archdiocese of Jaro. This confraternity plays an important role in the celebration of the Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria.
The Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is a celebration of the rich history and devotion to the Virgin Mary in Jaro, Iloilo. The celebration is a testament to the deep faith of the people of Western Visayas and the impact that the Virgin Mary has had on their lives. Whether you are a Catholic or not, the Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is an event that is not to be missed.