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HOMETOWN SNAPSHOT:

Exhibit shows relics of Jesus Christ

/ 08:47 PM April 07, 2012

CEBU CITY—To see parts of historic objects associated with the last days of Jesus Christ on earth was an answered prayer for Rowena Hitutua.

Hitutua, 33, said she didn’t have to go abroad and visit the places that Jesus Christ had walked because the authentic relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ and of the saints who witnessed it were on display at  the Chapel of Relics on Tabor Hill in Barangay San Jose, Cebu City.

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Parts of the exhibit are splinters from the “True Cross” on which Jesus Christ was nailed and a bit of the table on which he celebrated the Last Supper.

Pilgrims can venerate a piece of the crown of thorns that Roman soldiers placed on Jesus Christ’s head and a strip of cloth cut out from his burial veil.

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Also on display are parts of a veil that Virgin Mary wore and fragments of bones of saints like the apostle Peter and John the Evangelist.

Skeptics may raise their eyebrows, but there are bits of  bones from Saints Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

These are just among the more than 600 relics encased in gold- or silver-colored wooden reliquaries inside the chapel which is administered by the Order of Discalced Augustinians (OAD).

Fr. Dennis Duene Gutierrez, OAD, acquired many of the relics in the late 1990s while he pursued graduate degrees in church history and heritage at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Some relics were given to him as presents by the late Spanish Bishop Cipriano Calderon Polo, who once worked with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said Gutierrez.

He added that the other relics were obtained from the Lipsanoteca, a Church agency tasked to dispense them and from the central offices of religious orders associated with saints.

All relics come with certificates of authenticity issued by the Vatican.

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Hitutua’s favorite Passion relic is the olive crucifix carved out of the original cross of Jesus Christ.

“It really makes me reflect about how he died for us …   it strengthens the faith.”

Hitutua’s confidence in praying before the cross is rooted in an experience of benefiting from another relic.

Her 70-year-old mother suffered a heart attack in 2011 after arriving in Cebu from Camiguin Island. At the hospital, doctors were hard-pressed to find the mother’s pulse.

Hitutua prayed to God for her mother’s healing in front of fragments of the bones of Saint Rita de Cascia. The patron of impossible causes, Saint Rita once bore the head wound of Jesus Christ on her own forehead.

Two hours after her heart attack, Hitutua said her mother recovered.

The devotee, youngest in a brood of three, also attributes to Saint Rita’s prayers her 64-year-old father’s sobriety following a struggle with alcoholism.

To thank God, the daughter joined the Hermandad de Santa Rita de Cascia, the association that is watching over the Chapel of Relics during Holy Week.

The faithful have been flocking to the tombs of saints in pilgrimage to obtain healing from God, said Gutierrez, who shepherds the Hermandad.

Like them, those who visited the OAD’s Chapel of Relics had reported experiencing inner peace, Gutierrez said.

A visit to the relics, however, is more than just a quest for faith healing.

The relics of events like Jesus Christ’s birth or Passion, enables the faithful “to touch and see the historicity of the event,” the priest said.

He likened the keeping of relics to the continuing practice of preserving heirlooms from loved ones.

“Even today in Italy, widows wear lockets containing strands of hair of their deceased husbands,” Gutierrez said.

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