How the Parish of the Immaculate Conception became the Sanctuary of the Holy Face
by Fr. Richard Lagos
Parish Priest of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Nampicuan
& Rector of the Sanctuary of the Holy Face
The Holy Face of Jesus
The Veneration of the Holy Face of Jesus is traced back to the very passion of Our Lord, making it one of the oldest devotions in the Christian tradition. This devotion originated with the Sacred Image of Our Lord that miraculously appeared on St. Veronica's Veil.
In 1508, an anonymous pilgrim arrived in Manopello in Italy with the cloth wrapped in a package. The pilgrim gave the package to Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, who was sitting on a bench in front of the church. The doctor went into the church and unwrapped the package, discovering the veil. He immediately left the church to find the pilgrim but could not trace him. The veil was owned by the Leonelli family for a century.
In 1608, Pancrazio Petrucci, a soldier married to Marzia, a member of the Leonelli family, stole the veil from his father-in-law's house. A few years later, Marzia sold it for 400 scudi to Doctor Donato Antonio De Fabritiis to pay a ransom demand for her husband who was a prisoner in Chieti. The veil was given by De Fabritiis to the Capuchins who currently hold it today. This history has been documented by Father Donato da Bomba in his Relatione historica and is based on research that had been started in 1640.
In 1999, German Jesuit Heinnrich Pfeiffer, Professor of Art History at the Pontifical Gregorian University, announced at a press conference in Rome his discovery of the veil in the church of the Capuchin monastery, where it had been since 1660. Pfeiffer had in fact been promoting this image for many years before.
Pfeiffer claims that the image is the Veil of Veronica.
He suggests that it was stolen from the Vatican during rebuilding that took place in 1506, before the Sacking of Rome. He further suggests the cloth was placed over Jesus' face in the tomb and that the image was a byproduct of the forces unleashed during Jesus' resurrection – forces, he believes, that also formed the image on the Shroud of Turin. Additionally, he has proposed a history of the veil going back to the first century.
Though his narrative is unsupported by evidence connecting the cloth with Rome or the crucifixion, some have observed bits of glass embedded in the cloth, suggesting a connection between it and its former glass container in St. Peter's, reputed to have been smashed open when the cloth was stolen. Nevertheless, the cloth has received much publicity in recent years and Pope Benedict XVI visited the veil on 1 September 2006.
Bringing the Holy Face to the US and the Philippines
Through a proposal made by Mrs. Daisy Neves, a US-based Filipina, to Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, the official custodian of the Holy Face of Jesus at the Shrine in Manoppello, in 2013, the Holy Face of Manoppello was brought on a mission around the United States of America. Mrs. Neves, who at the time was afflicted with a debilitating disease and passed on in 2019, used to frequent Manoppello.
Through a providential meeting of Ms. Neves with Mrs. Elena "Len-len" Alzate, also a Filipina in Carmel, California, the mission was expanded to cover some places in the Philippines. The Alzates, who originated from Nampicuan, appealed to the authorities in Manopello for the inclusion of the parish in Nampicuan in the mission. Soon enough, Nampicuan was included in the itinerary for visit of the Holy Face.
Daisy Neves with Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner and her son Erwin during her last visit to the Shrine of Manoppello, October 2018 (Contributed photo)
Mission to the Philippines
When word of the impending visit was received by the parish in Nampicuan, preparations were initiated. A working group was organized headed by Ernest and Len-len Alzate, with Donz Lopez, former Laguna Governor Dodo Mandanas, and Mr. Bob Mondequillo.
Before coming to Nampicuan, there was a weeklong pilgrimage, where the Holy Face visited churches in Sta. Ana, Manila and Pasig City, drawing thousands of devotees in Metro Manila.
Two Thousand Hail Marys
Scheduled on the September 16, 2014, Nampicuan was the penultimate destination of the mission. In their desire to permanently house the replica of one of the most revered images of the Lord Jesus Christ, the parishioners, led by Fr Magtalas, fervently prayed their "weapon of hope": the two thousand Hail Mary's. This entailed an overnight recitation of the Holy Rosary.
On September 16, 2014, at around 10:00 o' clock in the morning, Fr. Carmeni Cucinelli arrived at the Anao Exit of the TPLEX expressway. He was accompanied by Fr. Renato Flores, the Filipino priest interpreter of the mission, and the working group, headed by Mrs. Elona "Len-len" Alzate and Ms. Doris Lopez.
Thousands of devotees welcomed the mission. A kilometer-long parade passed through the streets of Anao, Tarlac all the way to the center of the municipality, and wound up at Church of the Immaculate Conception Parish where the relic's replica was welcomed with animated dancing and singing.
Enthronement of the Holy Face of Jesus
Before noon on September 16, 2014, Bishop Roberto Mallari of the Diocese of San Jose de Nueva Ecija enthroned an exact replica of the Sudarium, honored as the burial face cloth of Christ which bears the Holy Face of the Risen Jesus (marker on the enthronement of the Holy Face).
Bishop Mallari was joined by Archbishop Florentino Lavarias of Pampanga and Bishop Florentino Cinense of Tarlac as well as Fr. Christian Magtalas, parish priest of the Immaculate Conception Parish, and Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, Rector of the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy.
The Mass was followed by a public veneration of the Holy Face.
Shrine of the Holy Face and the Blessed Mother
The replica of the veil "no human hands have made" and believed to miraculously bear an imprint of Christ's face was a gift from the Basilica Volto Santo, Italy to the Parish of the Immaculate Conception. The parishioners of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the municipality of Nampicuan are blessed and privileged to have a Shrine of the Holy Face and the Blessed Mother together in a beautiful and humble church, built with love and labor by our little community of faith.
"As our Blessed Mother Mary, the community of the parish of the Immaculate Conception, despite its illnesses, is privileged, called and chosen to take care of this relic of the Holy Face. Each of you are invited, through the intercession of Blessed Mother Mary, the Immaculate Conception, to look and to know God by fixing your eyes on the face of his son Jesus."
The Parish of the Immaculate Conception and rector of the Sanctuary of the Holy Face is hosting a fundraising concert for the construction of the Sanctuary of the Holy Face and for the operational expenses of the HOPE Foundation (https://www.dominusest.ph/post/h-o-p-e-house-of-prayer-and-evangelization) on November 6. This will be streamed through the shrine’s official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SanctuaryoftheHolyFace). For those who want to extend help, you may send your donations through the following PNB accounts: Come Build My Church, Inc. (226070005387) or Hope Foundation Inc. (226070000977).