Principal and Patroness
This is to clarify a claim made by an advertisement placed on page A9 of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Sunday, December 10 issue regarding the liturgical observance of the memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe here in the Philippines. Implicitly, it called for a correction of a mistake, “to this day… has not been corrected,” that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the principal patroness of the Philippines, instead of the Immaculate Conception, allegedly called for by no less than His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin, of happy memory.
The Diocese of Manila was established as a suffragan of the diocese of Mexico in 1579 and was since placed under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At that time, the Manila diocese covered a territory encompassing the whole country until the dioceses of Cebu, Nueva Segovia and Nueva Caceres were erected as separate ecclesiastical jurisdictions, suffragans of Manila, in 1595. By way of extension, the Immaculate Conception has always been recognized and observed as the principal Patroness of the Philippines, and has been observed as a solemnity (it was so in all Spanish territories anyway, including Mexico, but only on December 9 then instead of our December 8), even long before it was declared a dogma by Blessed Pius IX in 1854 (a move that has been in fact already anticipated by Pope Clement XI who extended its celebration as a solemnity for the Universal Church in 1708).
On the other hand, it was only in 1935 that the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe was extended to the Philippines, reaffirming its roots with the Archdiocese of Mexico where the devotion is rooted and from where it has since spread here and elsewhere in the world. Nonetheless, this declaration would have been superseded when in 1942, the Immaculate Conception was officially declared Principal Patroness of the Philippines by Pope Pius XII.
But there is no real conflict here, no need to exclude one to assert the other. Rightly, the late Cardinal Sin, in his circular of 2001, called attention to the fact that the memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe was being observed only as an optional memorial in many places and made the proper correction that it is to be observed as obligatory, in conformity with Pius XI’s bull of 1935. This does not at all change the fact that the Immaculate Conception remains the principal patroness of the Philippines, a holy day of obligation for all Filipino Catholics, and a title of honor that is not diminished by other patronages.
Please do not get me wrong here. The same person of Mary is being honored by both the Immaculate Conception and Our lady of Guadalupe. These two Marian titles are in fact very closely related. We are just trying to be liturgically, if not historically, precise here.
The correction has been made already: Our Lady of Guadalupe is also a patroness of the Islands, and her liturgical memorial is to observed throughout the country as obligatory. The correction that has to be made is in this advertisement.