Historic Church in Philippines Now a Minor Basilica

Pope Francis Elevates Church Dedicated to Blessed Virgin Mary in Bulacan Province

historic church philippines
The newly designated Basílica Menor de la Purísima Concepción in Santa Maria, Bulacan. PHOTO COURTESY OF RANZ JOSEPH VILLAMIL

Pope Francis has elevated a historic church in the Philippines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bulacan province to the rank of minor basilica, CBCP News reported on March 21, 2021.

The La Purisima Concepcion Parish Church in Sta. Maria town was granted the title by the pope in an announcement from the Diocese of Malolos on Sunday evening.

Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Malolos announced the church’s new status on March 21 in a video message to the parishioners.

“This designation is Holy Father Pope Francis’ unique recognition of your strong faith especially in this time of pandemic,” Villarojo said.

“It also proves the unique bond between the church in Rome and the Holy Father in our parish,” he said.

Founded by the Franciscan missionaries in 1792, the parish is one of the unique Marian centers of the diocese.

The church is home to the revered image of La Purisima Concepcion de Santa Maria, which received canonical coronation on February 1, 2020.

There are two local legends as to how the image arrived in Santa Maria: first is that it was brought to the town by the Franciscan Friars, second is that it was sculpted out of wood from a galleon. The image has been stolen in the 1930s and was retrieved in Nueva Ecija by a man named Teofilo Ramirez who claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared in his dream and gave instructions as to where the image can be found. The image was returned to the town on a February day and the townsfolk accordingly adjusted their feast day to the first Thursday of February except when its falls on February 2 (the feast of the Our Lady of the Candles). The image was first granted an Episcopal Coronation on March 3, 2018, by Bishop Jose Oliveros of Malolos. On March 28, 2019, Pope Francis granted the Canonical Coronation of the image of La Purisima Concepcion.

The church is the second minor basilica under the diocese, next to the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception or the Malolos Cathedral, and the 18th in the Philippines.