ANGELES CITY – This Holy Week, the bloody penitential practices of local folk, including true-to-life crucifixions on Good Friday, may yet be overshadowed by the renewed devotion to what San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto has described as the miraculous “Apu Mamacalulu” or Lord of Mercy in church in Barangay Lourdes Sur here.
Tens of thousands trooped to the barangay in the heart of this city yesterday morning to attend a two-hour Mass concelebrated here yesterday morning by Aniceto and Bishops Virgilio Pablo David and Roberto Mallari as they declared the church as a diocesan shrine.
Asked for any miraculous incidents that could be good subject for a Lenten story, Aniceto, who is known for his piety and prudence among local Catholics, cited the Apu Mamacalulu, represented by a 180-year-old statue of Jesus Christ lying in a sepulcher at the shrine’s main altar.
“The official declaration of the church as a shrine devoted to the Lord of Mercy is expected to put an end to the tumultuous history surrounding the statue,” said local historian Francis Musni.
Aniceto has been known to frown on actual crucifixions and other bloody practices in Pampanga during the Lenten season, as he encouraged practices approved by the Catholic church.
This Lenten season, he urged Catholics to instead renew their devotion to the Lord of Mercy at the shrine which he described during his homily yesterday as a “sacred place.”
Musni recalled that the statue was sculpted 150 to 180 years ago by one named Buenaventura from Paete, Laguna, as commissioned by Fr.
Macario Paras, then parish priest of Angeles. The statue was first installed in a little sanctuary located in the vast estate of the Paras and Dayrit families in Lourdes Sur, then known as Talimundok.
A church record dated Feb. 20, 1865 showed that the Apu Mamacalulu statue was gifted by Paras to the local church and, together with its carriage, was transferred to the church in 1872 until it was moved elsewhere for safekeeping in 1896 or 1896 arising from unstable peace and order conditions amid moves against the Spanish colonial government.
Apu Mamacalulu was brought back to the church in 1904 and brought out for religious processions on Good Fridays and this town’s fiesta in October.
Musni said that in 1928, the Apu Mamacalulu was virtually abducted after a Good Friday procession by a group headed by then Mayor Juan Nepomuceno amid conflicts with the parish priest on the question of donations.
Catholic church authorities based in Manila brought the issue before the Supreme Court which ordered that Apu Mamacalulu be turned over to Catholic hierarchy in Manila whose jurisdiction covered Pampanga.
“But it took the group of the mayor one year to turn over the statue to Manila. It is said that they had a replica of it made in Paete and that was what they turned over,” Musni said.
Later, however, the replica was returned to Angeles, thus giving the city two statues of Apu Mamacalulu, one located at the city’s Holy Rosary parish church and the other at the church-made-shrine in Lourdes Sur.
“It is said that the Apu Mamacalulu in the shrine is the replica, but then the Apu in Lourdes Sur now has more followers,” he noted.
Another controversy erupted in 1985 when then San Fernando Archbishop Oscar Cruz issued a ban on holding religious services at the church in Lourdes Sur amid another conflict on donations. The ban stayed on for the next many years until two years ago when Aniceto lifted the ban.
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