Philippines: thousands gather at Marian shrine

 Thousands of pilgrims gathered here yesterday to celebrate the national day of prayer and the Fourth National Pilgrimage to Lipa's Marian Shrine. Heavy rains did not stop the Marian devotees from attending Mass at the Carmel Church led by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. This year's theme is: "I am all yours and all I have is yours O Jesus, through Mary, Your Immaculate Mother and our Mediatrix of All Grace." Besides bishops and priests from different dioceses, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, Lipa Mayor Oscar Gozos and other local politicians were also present. Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles launched during the event the Pueblo Amante de Maria Mariological Society of the Philippines, the first group of theologians and Marian devotees established in the country. The society aims to conduct an in-depth study on Marian devotions and provide theological foundation to guide devotees in their devotional practices. Fr Melvin Castro, president and founder of the Confraternity of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, said: "there is a tendency among our devotees to resort to fanaticism in their devotional practices so there is a need for theological basis or foundation." He said the name Pueblo Amante de Maria manifests the Filipinos' "filial devotion to the Blessed Mother." This year's gathering also coincided with the 59th anniversary of the Marian apparition to Sr Teresita Castillo of the Carmelite Convent here.

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