Manila (Fides Service) - Thousands gathered on 4th June to take part in celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival Spanish missionaries who came with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary now known and revered as Our Lady of Piat. Catholics in the Philippines, very devoted to the Mother of God, came not only from Cagayan but from all over the Islands to take part in the launching of a boat procession in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary along the Cagayan River the longest in the archipelago.
The procession started at Aparri, 450 km north of Manila. More than 200 boats pushed off to escort the barge carrying the statue along the river to Piat where the image is usually kept and where it is expected to arrive today June 5. As the procession makes its way down the river people on the river banks sing hymns and throw flowers.
The boat journey commemorates the arrival of Spanish Dominicans in 1604 who came by boat from Macao, at the time a Portuguese colony, and brought with them the statue and devotion to the Mother of God.
Twenty days of pilgrimages and prayers will mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Statue of Our Lady of Piat. Special visitors will include Archbishop Antonio Franco Papal Nuncio in the Philippines and Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, Archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 5/6/2004 lines 22 words 230)