Duterte declares Virgin Mary's nativity feast a holiday7:38 PM, August 14, 2019
Philippines:It is the second time the Philippine president has green-lighted a Marian feast as a holiday.
Thousands of people join a religious procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in October 2018 to mark the Holy Month of the Rosary in the Philippines. (Photo by Maria Tan)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law declaring Sept. 8 of every year, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church, a "national special working holiday."
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the oldest Marian solemnities and one of the principal feasts of the liturgical devotion to the Blessed Mother.
A working holiday means that there will be classes in schools, while offices and other establishments will be open.
It is the second Marian feast to be declared a holiday in the Philippines. In 2017, Duterte declared Dec. 8 a special non-working holiday to mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
He paid homage to Mary and described her as “selfless" when she accepted the invitation to be Jesus Christ's mother "so that the plan of salvation be realized."
The president, who has been a vocal critic of Catholic leaders, called Mary "the epitome of faith and source of inspiration" for many Christians, especially during challenging times.
Father Melvin Castro of Tarlac Diocese said the president's new declaration is a "cause of joy" because the state "recognizes the importance of religious and spiritual celebrations."
The priest expressed hope that the celebration will inspire people "to emulate and imitate the virtues of Our Lady."
Congressman Rodolfo Farinas, author of the bill, said the holiday aims to enable Filipino Catholics "to venerate and celebrate their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary."
The legislator noted what he described as a "fervent and deep devotion” by Filipinos to the Blessed Virgin Mary that is reflected in the celebrations.
Pope Pius XII declared the Virgin Mary as the principal patroness of the Philippines in an apostolic letter on Sept. 12, 1942.
The modern canon of scripture does not record Mary's birth. The earliest known account of Mary's birth is found in an apocryphal text from the late second century.
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