It was the canonical coronation of our Lady of the Peña de Francia, the regional patroness of Bicol, as had been authorized by Pope Benedict XV. It took placein Naga on September 20, 1924. The concourse of mitred dignitaries of the church headed by the Apostolic Delegate himself, including Manila archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty, a number of bishops and monsignori, not to say priests of the regular and secular clergies from all over the country who came for the ceremonies was the biggest ever seen in the Bicol region.
|THE CHURCH OF NAGA, now a metropolitan cathedral, built in 1595|
Metropolitan newspapers had directed public attention towards this event long before it was held. During the week of September 13-20, all roads led to Naga as thousands over thousands of pilgrims from all walks of life packed the streets of the episcopal capital. Solemn pontifical masses were celebrated daily by the visiting bishops from the 18th to the 21st. During the triduum that preceded the coronation the people overflowed daily the cathedral and its surrounding yards and premises where open-air altars stood and masses were offered continually from morning to high noon.
The coronation which was a pompous pageant in the afternoon of the 20th climaxed the week-long ceremonies. On the platform erected in the open field fronting the cathedral sat governors and high civil official of the Bikol provinces side by side with purple-rocheted prelates. Never had such a congregation been seen hereabouts. As Msgr. Piani, the Pope’s own representative, dressed in pontifical regalia, raised the bejeweled crown and rested it on the head of the statue of Our Lady, the teeming humanity which crowded every available inch of space sung to cried of “Viva la Virgen!” amidst the detonation of rising rockets, blare of band music and ringing of church bells.
To the visiting prelates and laity there was something more than the success and brilliance of the affair that they could ill afford to pass unnoticed. The whole credit would have naturally gone to the incumbent bishop, had there been one. But they were the guests of a vacant see. Who were their hosts? Two figures loomed prominently as the rains of the event that made history, two future bishops from the Bikol clergy: Frs. Francisco S. Reyes and Casimiro M. Lladoc
A year later, on July 4, 1925, the happy and long-expected tidings of Pope Pius XI’s appointment of Msgr. Reyes to be bishop of Nueva Caceres was received in the Bikol region. He had been proclaimed in secret consistory in Rome the previous June 20. Eight years later, Father Lladoc received the mitre, as first bishop of Bacolod.
When on September 19, 1925,Bishop Reyes received consecration at his cathedral, Naga once again became a center of pilgrimage.It was at the same time, the first anniversary of the coronation of Our lady, and almost all the same dignitaries who had taken oart at the previous year’s pageant were in attendance. Msgr. Piani, the Apostolic Delegate, was the consecrator. Co-consecrators were the bishops of Nueva Segovia, Msgr.Peter Hurth and of Lipa, Alfredo Versoza.