By ZENIT Staff

A Catholic bishop has called on the faithful to respond with prayer after a major fire ravaged a Manila parish church, a home to a four-century-old image of the child Jesus, reported CBCP News.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, administrator of the Manila archdiocese, urged Catholics to join him in prayer “for the immediate recovery of the parish” from the tragedy.

“But it’s good that no one was hurt and no other houses were damaged,” Bishop Pabillo said in a statement posted on the archdiocese’s website.

A huge fire has engulfed the Sto. Niño Parish Church in the city’s Pandacan district on Friday, and has reached third alarm.

The blaze, which started at the back of the church at around 1:19 pm, was declared under control at 1:44 pm.

Bishop Pabillo personally visited the area and urged parishioners to support the rebuilding of the church.

As of Saturday, no words yet from the archdiocese or from the parish whether the historical image of the Sto. Niño was among those damaged in the fire.

The religious icon is an object of devotion to many Catholics, especially in the old district of Pandacan.

Believed to be more than 400 years old, the statue is carved out of dark wood that is similar to the dark Mexican wood of the images of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo and the Black Madonna of Antipolo.

The archdiocese said the image was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards via galleon trade from Acapulco, Mexico to Manila.

Ciborium Survives

A ciborium with consecrated hosts was found intact amid the rubble from the fire in the Sto. Niño Church in Manila’s Pandacan district, its parish priest said Sunday.

Fr. Sanny de Claro said the ciborium was only among the few things recovered from the tragedy and brought to safety.

He said the rescue of the ciborium took place on Friday after the fire when some church workers tried searching for the four-century-old image of the child Jesus.

“When the ciborium was opened, the sacred host was there,” said an emotional Fr. De Claro in his homily during Mass outside the damaged church.

“This is the biggest miracle. While looking for the image, the sacred host was found. We were pointed to Jesus,” he said.

The ciborium and the consecrated hosts are now in the safekeeping of the San Fernando de Dilao Parish Church in Paco.

The parish also announced the burning of the 400-year-old wooden image of Sto. Niño and other religious icons.

But Fr. De Claro said they recovered one of the “tres potencias”, and the burned andador, scepter, and the vestment that the image was wearing when the fire broke out.

He said that some liturgical objects such as the chalices were also left unscathed and can still be used.

These relics, according to him, will be shown to the public in the coming days.

Fr. De Claro then asked the parishioners to remain hopeful despite the challenges.

“We are the church. Let’s start again. Let’s rebuild the church of our faith,” he said.

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