On September 8, during the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Tarlac City announced good news to its parishioners. According to the shrine, the St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, one of the four “Papal Basilicas”, has approved the petition of becoming an “affiliate” church of the papal basilica.
The shrine said that the basilica relayed the good news to them on September 7. The petition to become affiliated with the Church’s “premier Marian shrine” was started by the diocese back in July. (Read: 5 Marian Devotions To Guide You This Week)
The Tarlac shrine is the ninth shrine in the country to receive such affiliation with the St. Mary Major Basilica. The other churches that share the same privilege are Manaoag Basilica in Pangasinan, Caysasay Shrine in Batangas, Orani Basilica in Bataan, Laguna’s Turumba Shrine, Mount Carmel Basilica and Novaliches Shrine in Quezon City (Quezon City) and Bantay Church in Ilocos Sur, and Bohol’s Loboc Shrine.
‘Spiritual bond of affinity’
According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), “the privilege will bestow upon the shrine a ‘spiritual bond of affinity’ to the basilica.” All indulges attached to the basilica can also be acquired in the Tarlac shrine, under the same conditions.
The Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Merced houses the Our Lady of Mercy, also known as Our Lady of Ransom. The image was first brought to Tarlac in the 1900’s, and was stolen in 1993. By God’s grace, it was returned in 2015–just in time for the church’s 60th anniversary. (Read: 3 Most Visited Marian Shrines Around the World)
It was elevated to the status of diocesan shrine in February 2018 by Bishop Enrique Macaraeg. He was also the one who granted the Our Lady of Ransom’s episcopal coronation in September 2020, coinciding with the 65th anniversary of the church’s canonical erection.
On Mama Mary’s feast day last year, the city government of Tarlac declared the Nuestra Señora de la Merced as the “Queen of the City of Tarlac”.