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Cebu archdiocese seeks return of historical church panels

MANILA: The Archdiocese of Cebu on Tuesday said it is coordinating with the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) for the return of 19th-century pulpit panels removed from a church in Boljoon, Cebu.

In a statement, Archbishop Jose Palma said the four panels were removed without the church’s permission and requested for these to be immediately returned to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santissima.

“No official record exists neither in the Archdiocesan Archives nor in the Chancery Office of any request from the Parish Priest at the time, Fr. Faustino Cortes, requesting approval to deconsecrate them for removal, much less conveyance to third parties in exchange for monetary purposes of the parish,” Palma added.

Palma noted the sacral nature of these panels, which he said are integral to the patrimony of the church as part of its missionary work.

“Their illegal removal constitutes a sacrilege. They should never have been treated, then or now, as mere artworks for exhibition in museums, much
less for private appreciation by the collectors who purchased them. For these panels are considered in the ecclesial rite as tools of evangelization,” he added.

The panels resurfaced at the NMP on Feb. 13, describing it as ‘a gift to the nation” from private collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista.

In a social media post on Feb. 14, the NMP said the panels, which feature the image of Saint Augustine of Hippo, trace its original provenance from the pulpit of the Patrocinio de Maria Santisima Parish Church in Boljoon, Cebu.

On Monday, the NMP said the donors procured the panels through legitimate means which “highlight their commitment to ethical acquisition’.

‘The donors’ decision to acquire these artifacts and donate to the Philippines reflects their dedication to preserving cultural heritage and promoting patriotism,’ it said in a separate statement.

Source: Philippines News Agency