Five Hundred Years of Catholic Evangelization in the Philippines

The Catholic Church in the Philippines has chosen Easter Sunday, 4 April, to formally inaugurate the year-long celebration of the 5th centenary (1521). Various programs and celebrations are being organized to celebrate the important event, with a single purpose, proclaimed by the Church. “Being grateful to God for the gift of faith that has been cultivated over the past five centuries from one generation to the next”. This concept, which is the center of the celebrations, will be lived, celebrated and announced at Easter and the Easter season.

Catholic Bishops have chosen the theme “Gifted to Give” to celebrate 500 years of faith in the country. The Church has planned to inaugurate the Jubilee celebration on Easter Sunday, April 4, with the opening of the “Holy Doors” of churches across the country: more than one hundred churches in all dioceses have been designated as “Jubilee Churches”.

In a pastoral letter sent to Fides, Bishop Crispin Varquez of the city of Borongan, capital of the province of Eastern Samar, where the first settlers who brought the Gospel landed, thanked all the parents of generations of five centuries, for their invaluable contribution in transmitting the faith to children, “for having given the beauty and truth of our faith to children”, and has encouraged all the faithful to carry out the same mission. The Bishop also praised the “creative and passionate” efforts of priests, nuns, catechists, lay people and women and many religious organizations for evangelization”, exhorting them to “persevere to the end”. “We teach the faith thanks to who we are as people, thanks to our actions. Our faith is a saving treasure. Transmitting it is both our joy and our responsibility”, recalled the Bishop.

In one of the 500th anniversary initiatives, Catholics from Homonhon Island, in the central Philippines, planted 500 trees to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity. “In this way, we encourage and remind Christians to be responsible and to be good stewards of God’s creation”, said Fr. Christian Ofilan, who led the initiative to plant trees in the territory of the parish of Saint John the Baptist, recalling that “the protection of the environment is part of the Christian message”. Homonhon Island is the center of Borongan Diocese’s celebrations, as it is where the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on March 16, 1521, marking the beginning of the Christian faith in the Asian nation.

The Catholic Church also commemorates the anniversary of the first baptism, which took place on April 14, 2021, an event that will be guided by the Archdiocese of Cebu, in the central Philippines.

In relation to the 500 years of faith, the Bishops will hold the International Missionary Congress (IMC) and the 2nd National Missionary Congress in April 2022. In recent years, the Bishops’ Conference decided to organize a nine-year preparatory cycle (from 2013 to 2021), assigning a particular theme to each year, with the aim of deepening and revitalizing the missionary character of the Filipino Church.

The anniversary will also be celebrated by the ten million Filipino migrants of the diaspora living in nearly one hundred countries around the world. About 10 million Filipinos abroad are also “bearers of the faith with them wherever they work and live as migrants”, underlines the Filipino Church, recalling that Pope Francis has defined them as “smugglers of the faith”. Out of a population of over 108 million inhabitants, in the Philippines there are more than 90 million Catholics (86% of the population) spread over 86 dioceses

The Xaverian Missionaries have been working in the Philippines since 1989 and continue their mission along with the Filipino people in the Dioceses of Cubao and Novaliches.

Agenzia Fides: Information Services of the Pontifical Mission Societies since 1927. (March 3, 2021)

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