Our Lady of Altagracia jubilee concludes in Dominican Republic
The special envoy of Pope Francis, Archbishop Peña Parra, presides over the closing celebrations of the Altagracia jubilee year in the Dominican Republic. On Monday he met with authorities in Puerta del Conde, where the canonical crowning of the image of Our Lady of Altagracia took place.
Centenary celebrations for the Canonical Crowning of the image of Our Lady of Altagracia, patroness of the Dominican Republic, concluded yesterday with a special Mass celebrated at the Olympic Stadium of Santo Domingo. Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, Pope Francis' special envoy to the centenial jubilee concluding celebrations and Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, presided over the celebration among many others taking place since last Friday.
The golden rose donated by Pope Francis
Prior to the morning Mass, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra met with civil and religious authorities at Puerta del Conde, where, exactly one hundred years ago, the canonical crowning of the image of Our Lady Altagracia took place. He also placed a golden rose at the feet of the Virgin on behalf of Pope Francis, who wished to spiritually join the many pilgrims venerating the Virgin of Altagracia.
"The offering of the golden rose is a very ancient homage to the Queen of Heaven that popes exceptionally grant to images of great devotion among the faithful, for special occasions, such as this centenary of the canonical crowning," the Archbishop explained. The golden rose symbolizes a flower that does not wither, he noted, a flower that represents all the Dominican people who come to venerate the Virgin of Altagracia, entrusting their lives, wishes and needs, while asking for her intercession before the Lord. He concluded, "whenever you see this rose, next to the Holy Virgin, remember also the Holy Father and pray for him and for the universal Church."
Crowning of the Virgin of Altagracia
Addressing the authorities, Archbishop Peña Parra said the crowning of the Virgin is an acknowledgement "by believers, and also by all men and women of good will, of the importance that the invocation of Altagracia has had in the ups and downs of history" in the nation. And it has strengthened respect for fundamental values by inspiring and strengthening fraternal, peaceful relationships that respect the rights of others and are attentive to the needs of the weakest.
The danger of 'ideological colonization'
Archbishop Peña Parra recalled that Pope Francis had appointed him as his special envoy for the centenary of the crowning of the image of Our Lady of Altagracia as a way to express his affection and closeness to all Dominicans. Recalling the country's past, he reiterated what the Pope wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia about colonization noting, "nor has colonization ended; in many places, it has been changed, disguised and concealed." Archbishop Peña Parra pointed out that this is the case with ideological colonization, which today "goes against the reality of existence and stifles the natural attachment of people to values, seeking to uproot their traditions, history and religious ties," something weighing heavily on Latin American peoples.
"We must be vigilant because this ideological colonization seeks to destroy the sacred value of human life, from its beginning to its natural end," the Archbishop pointed out. "And it is persistent in trying to undo the importance of the family, as the fundamental cell of society, necessary for the healthy growth of peoples. Archbishop Peña Parra continued, it also seeks "to steal the future from younger generations, putting forth an uncertain path that has no other direction than the precariousness of the provisional."
Be committed to offering young people hope
Archbishop Peña Parra encouraged everyone to ask Our Lady of Altagracia to intercede so that the Dominican Republic and all American countries may receive the grace to count on life and not on death, to strengthen and protect the family, and to work to offer young people a bright and hopeful future.
Pope Francis' affectionate embrace
In his homily at the closing Mass of the Altagracia jubilee year, Archbishop Peña Parra pointed out that Our Lady of Altagracia has since 1514 has continuously accompanied the Dominican people with her vigilant and loving presence, helping the immense richness of Christian life to grow in their hearts, "with the light and grace of her divine Son Jesus."
The special envoy conveyed the Pope's affectionate embrace, greetings and blessing to all the bishops, priests, religious men and women, the faithful and the civil and military authorities present. He then mentioned the scene depicted in the painting of Our Lady of Altagracia, which "invites us to adore the Child Jesus in the humility of the manger where he is lovingly cared for by his Mother Mary and St. Joseph."
The value of life and the family
Archbishop Peña Parra noted how the image "teaches us to prioritize the value of life and the family" and is also "a defense and appeal in favour of the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of race and social status; for we are all children of the same God the Father and children of the Virgin Mary and Mother; as well as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ."
Recalling that "in the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, life is the first civil right mentioned," and that Article 37 deems it "inviolable from conception to death," the Archbishop added that the image "is also a defense of the value of the family as an institution and of family ties that have been and are severely tried, denigrated and marginalized, but at the same time continue to be the most stable point of reference, the strongest support" of the entire human family and society.
And it is also "a symbol of the family as a domestic Church, where the first lessons of faith are learned." Citing the Santo Domingo Document, which states that the mission of the family "is 'to be a domestic Church' that welcomes, lives, celebrates and proclaims the Word of God, Archbishop Peña Parra urged support for the family and its protection "from everything that endangers its beauty."
Young people hope for the country's future
Archbishop Peña Parra's thoughts then went to young people, reminding them that only in Christ can the answers to all concerns and hopes be found. "The Christian faith teaches us that it is worth working for a more just society," he stressed, "that it is worth defending the innocent, the oppressed and the poor; that it is worth sacrificing ourselves for the victory of the civilization of love.
He called on them not to be enticed by modern colonialisms - hedonism, ideologies, drugs, violence - and to be responsible and active in the country's social, economic, cultural, political and ecclesial structures to help bring about an increasingly humane and more Christian development.
Pope Francis' encouragement to Dominican faithful
The painting of Our Lady of Altagracia, the ideal image of Dominican women and men, who as good mothers and good fathers welcome with love, determination and courageous faith the challenges of responsible motherhood and fatherhood, also offers another message, Archbishop Peña Parra mentioned, namely that "it is neither moral nor licit to mistreat a human being."
A message that is "always current and without an expiration date...valid for all places and for men and women of all times." In conclusion, Archbishop Peña Parra shared the Pope's encouragement for the Dominican faithful to adhere more intimately to Christ, to be inspired by Mary's maternal charity, and to continue to "grow in fidelity to service of this mystery." He prayed to the Our Lady that she intercede especially for the young and the elderly, for the poor and those who suffer, and again that she protect the unborn and all families, and that every person may experience the consolation of her tenderness and maternal love.