South China Sea: Philippine Coast Guard seeks divine intervention, calls on Virgin Mary

To bolster their maritime defenses, he said the coast guard had asked the cathedral to create two replicas of the revered Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje, a 398-year-old brown sculpture of the Virgin. Mexico which once protected Spanish galleons on the perilous Manila-Acapulco trade route centuries ago.
The interior of Antipolo Cathedral, east of Manila, with its main altar in the center. Photo: Shutterstock
THE Catholic Church Pakistan has a long tradition of invoking the Virgin Mary in times of crisis, Priest Robert Reyes told This Week in Asia.

“At different times in the history of the Church, Mary appeared and was involved in different crises that communities were going through. And because of these crises, she was given specific titles,” Reyes said Monday.

The icon in the Antipolo Cathedral, known as Our Lady of Peace, is just “one of the many titles given to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the son of God,” he said.

Another statue of Mary, called Our Lady of Fatima, was carried by priests during the People Power Revolution in the Philippines in 1986 and helped make the revolt peaceful and bloodless.

When he went to the disputed Scarborough bench with the “Atin Ito“In May, when distributing relief to fishermen, Reyes said he brought with him the statue of Stella Maris, or Mary as Star of the Sea, who traditionally protects sailors.

On his next trip, he plans to take a replica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila, a gold and ivory Marian figure that is said to have miraculously prevented Dutch invaders from conquering Manila in 1646.

Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, a sculpture of the Madonna of Mexico also known as Our Lady of Antipolo, is displayed in the Antipolo Cathedral. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

However, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, warned Monday that the Church is adding “more fuel to the fire.”

“We are not political leaders, we are spiritual and moral leaders, and we know that our compatriots, the people in the country, are increasingly tense,” he said, adding: “Nobody wants a war.”

But others have been very vocal about pushing the church to get more involved in the South China Sea conflict.

Last month, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, a former president of the conference, penned a pastoral letter titled “Lord, Save Us! We Are Perishing!” warning of “the insidious attempts of a foreign power that rules by an ideology that does not recognize God and holds all religion and the practice of faith under the heavy heel of its totalitarian boot to ‘trample upon our sacred shores,’” referencing the Philippine national anthem.

Our marine environment is being relentlessly destroyed as China works to transform sites into islands and militarized platforms

Philippine Archbishop Socrates Villegas

“Not only are our maritime zones being usurped and our fishermen being expelled from their fishing grounds,” denounced Villegas, former right-hand man of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin. “Our marine environment is being relentlessly destroyed by China’s efforts to transform sites into islands and militarized platforms.”

He stressed that the geopolitical situation has become “a deeply moral issue” as many Filipino fishermen have been deprived of their livelihoods and forced to “scavenge through the remains of poachers and Chinese invaders.”

Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher echoed the call for peaceful resolutions at a news conference in Manila on July 2, saying that conflicts, including in the South China Sea, must be resolved peacefully and encouraging “the parties to the conflict to respect international law.”