12-Sep-2000 -- Church News
Panama, 12 (NE) With great joy and religious fervor, Panamanian Catholics received this weekend the proclamation of Holy Mary of La Antigua as the official patroness of their country.  In the frame of the National Eucharist Congress and with a solemn ceremony, the country was also consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The celebration was presided over by the Archbishop of Panama, Jose Dimas Cedeno.  Archbishop Carlos Amigo Vallejo of Seville (Spain) was also present, together with all the members of the Bishop's Conference.
The devotion to the Virgin of La Antigua (The Old) dates back to the first years of the evangelization of this country and thus of the American continent.  In 1510, Spanish sailors brought the first image of the Virgin to reach the mainland.  It was an image of the Virgin of La Antigua, to whom the Spanish sailors had a special devotion because it was very popular in Seville, home of many of them.
In 1513, Pope Leo X created in the place where a small village had been built the first Diocese on the mainland, with the name Blessed Mary of La Antigua.  Archbishop Cedeno explained that, although the first city to be the Diocese's See has disappeared, the Diocese of Blessed Mary of La Antigua has not.  The Prelate recalled that in 1524 both the Headquarters of the civil government and the See of the Diocese were moved to the City of Panama, and afterwards to the New City of Panama, in January 1673.
In both cases, he explained, the Diocese did not disappear nor was destroyed nor a new one was created, but only the place was changed.  Archbishop Cedeno pointed out that nowdays the Archdiocese of Panama has the honor of being the same Diocese of Blessed Mary of La Antigua, therefore being the Mother Church of the Republic of Panama and the first one in the continent.


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