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A Holy Week devotion: Visita Iglesia

by Deanna Macaranas

EVERY year during the Holy Week, Filipino Catholics visit at least seven churches on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. 

Also known as Panata, the practice is said to be a perfect opportunity for repentance, spiritual renewal, and deepening of faith. 

While most of us are familiar with the idea of the practice and when it is being done, do you know where and how it started?  

Visita Iglesia’s beginnings 

In 380, Emperor Theodosius I declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire. 

In 1553, the tradition of visiting seven churches was started by St. Philip Neri, who was born in Florence, Italy and later on became the Apostle of Rome.  

Seven significant basilicas were established in Rome, and it was thought that they contained the tombs of well-known Christian martyrs like St. Paul and St. Peter. 

Tradition brought to the Philippines

The practice was later introduced in the Philippines by the Augustinian missionaries in the 1560s when the Spaniards came to the islands. 

During the early Spanish period, accomplishing the Visita Iglesia was difficult as there were only a few churches with long distances separating settlements from each other. 

 Courtesy: pexels.com /@Carl Paolo Hernandez

Observing Visita Iglesia 

The observance of the Holy Week spans the final week of Lent—starting from Palm Sunday, then Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday until it reaches its end on Easter Sunday. 

Throughout the Holy Week, Filipinos show their faith and commemorate Christ’s passion through a variety of rites, processions, and devotional activities. 

Courtesy: pexels.com / @Pixabay

These include visiting at least seven churches on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to pray, meditating the Stations of the Cross, and offering prayers.

Some people even visit 14 churches to symbolize the 14 Stations of the Cross. 

Meanwhile, there are devotees who take an extra mile by walking barefoot from one church to another.

Other people go above by carrying a cross. These practices are performed to remember the hardships of Jesus Christ on the path to his crucifixion, much like fasting during Lent.

Visita Iglesia is also an opportunity for people to reflect and seek forgiveness for their sins. 

It is believed that those who finish Visita Iglesia will receive a reward.

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