The Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Tarlac City is now an affiliate church of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, Italy, one of four major basilicas of the Catholic Church.
With the privilege, the indulgences attached to the basilica can also be obtained by pilgrims visiting the diocesan shrine under the usual conditions.
According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the approval of the petition that started in July for the grant was relayed on Sept. 7 and announced formally to the faithful on Sept. 8, the Nativity of Mary.
The revered image of Our Lady of Mercy, also known as Our Lady of Ransom, was brought to Tarlac City in the 1900’s. Its chapel became a parish in 1955 and elevated as a diocesan shrine on Feb. 24, 2018 by Bishop Enrique Macaraeg.
The original image was stolen in 1993, but was returned to the church in 2015 in time for the church’s 60th anniversary. Devotees refer to it as a miracle of God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
On Sept. 24, 2020, Bishop Macaraeg granted the image’s episcopal coronation to coincide with the church’s 65th canonical erection anniversary.
In a resolution approved on Sept. 8, 2020, the city government also declared Nuestra Señora de la Merced as the Queen of the City of Tarlac.
The CBCP said the Tarlac Marian shrine is the ninth church in the Philippines to be granted perpetual affiliation with the St. Mary Major Basilica. The others are: Manaoag Basilica (Pangasinan) and Caysasay Shrine (Batangas) in 2011, Orani Basilica (Bataan) in 2012, Turumba Shrine (Pakil, Laguna) in 2014, Mount Carmel Basilica (Quezon City) and Bantay Shrine in 2017 and Loboc (Bohol) and Novaliches (Quezon City) shrines early this year.