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The 19th-century pulpit panels are on display at the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila (Facebook)

The Church in the Philippines has demanded the return of “stolen” pulpit panels now on display at the National Museum in Manila. Source: UCA News.

The early 19th-century panels depicting the image of St Augustine of Hippo, the founder of the Augustinian Order, were originally installed at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santissima in Boljoon town, Cebu in the central Philippines.

They reportedly went missing in 1988. 

“While we understand the National Museum’s desire to exhibit the same to the general public, we have to assert the sacral nature of these panels,” Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma OP said.

In a strongly-worded statement released yesterday, Archbishop Palma said the panels “are integral to the patrimony of the Church as part of her missionary work and thus considered sacred. Their illegal removal constitutes a sacrilege”.

The National Museum unveiled the series of panels on its official Facebook page on February 13, calling it “A Gift to The Nation,” and thanked private collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista for their “generous contribution” to the national collection.

“The panels … trace its original provenance from the pulpit of the Patrocinio de Maria Santisima Parish Church in Boljoon, Cebu,” read the photo caption accompanying them.

Archbishop Palma said he was glad the panels “finally resurfaced and are now in the possession of the National Museum”. However, he said, the panels were removed without permission.

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

In its response, the National Museum recognised the “broader historical context” but maintained its donors “procured these specific panels through legitimate means, highlighting their commitment to ethical acquisition”.


Philippine Church wants national museum to return ‘stolen’ panels (By Ronald Reyes, UCA News)