The World

Catholics in the Philippines celebrate 500 years of their evangelization encouraged by the Pope

The Holy Father thanked the 100 million Filipino Catholics for the faith and joy they bring to the world, 500 years after the arrival of the Gospel.

Rafael Miner-March 16, 2021-Reading time: 4 minutes

Photo: ©2021 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Five hundred years have passed since the Christian proclamation first came to the Philippines. You have received the joy of the Gospel: that God loved us so much that he gave his Son for us. And this joy is seen in your people, in your eyes, faces, songs and prayers." said the Pope at the Holy Mass in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippines, celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

"I want to thank you for the joy you bring to the whole world and to Christian communities. I think of many beautiful experiences in Roman families, but it is the same all over the world, where your discreet and hard-working presence has been able to be a witness of faith", Francis added in his homily.

"They do."he continued, "in the style of Mary and Joseph"because "God likes to bring the joy of faith with humble and hidden, courageous and persevering service.""Don't stop." the Pontiff pointed out, addressing the Filipino faithful, "the work of evangelization, which is not proselytizing".

The Christian proclamation they have received "one must always bring it to others".by taking care of "of those who are wounded and live on the margins.". As the God who gives himself, he reported Vatican Newsalso the The Church "is not sent to judge, but to welcome; not to impose, but to sow; not to condemn, but to bring Christ who is salvation"..

"Do not be afraid to proclaim the Gospel, to serve and to love. And with your joy you will be able to ensure that it will also be said of the Church: 'She has loved the world so much!'"

A Church that loves the world without judging it and that gives itself for the world is beautiful and attractive. May it be so, in the Philippines and in every place on earth", added the Pope.

Asian country with the most Catholics

Five centuries ago, Spanish missionaries brought Christianity to the Philippines, and today it is the country with the largest Catholic population in Asia, around 100 million people, almost 92 percent of the total, and the third largest in the world in terms of Catholics, after Brazil and Mexico. The rest of the Filipino believers, up to 99 percent, are Muslims (5.5 percent), and of other beliefs (syncretism, Buddhism, animism...). 

On the other hand, the Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (Manila, 1957), with a Tagalog father and a mother of Chinese origin, who was archbishop of Manila, is the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples since the end of 2019, and president of Caritas Internationalis. Cardinal Tagle succeeded Italian Cardinal Fernando Filoni in the Vatican dicastery, which is also in charge of the missions, and is known in the Philippines by the nickname. "Chito". 

Francis' apostolic visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in 2015 was the second trip by a Vicar of Christ to the Philippines, following that of St. John Paul II in 1995, twenty years earlier. In both cases, millions of people attended the events, especially in Manila.

The first baptisms

Joyful witnesses of a faith that came 500 years ago. This is how the Catholics of the Philippines define themselves as they are preparing to live their Jubilee of commemoration this year, because it was in 1521 when Raja Humabon, Hara Humumay and 800 Filipinos were baptized on the island of Cebu by Spanish missionaries, marking the beginning of a long history of evangelization, according to the official Vatican agency.

Among other institutions of the Church, the Philippine Franciscans, integrated into the Franciscan Province of St. Peter Baptist and the Philippine Custody of St. Anthony Padua, indicated at the end of January that they were joining in the activities of the Church in the Philippines, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel in the country, with various initiatives. Among these is the preparation of publications and books that will record the contribution of the Franciscans to the evangelization of the Philippines since their arrival in 1577. 

The disciples of St. Francis established charitable institutions such as the San Juan de Dios Hospital (1580), the Naga Hospital of San Diego (1586), the Hospital of the Holy Waters in Los Baños (1592), and the San Lazaro Hospital, the first leprosarium in the Far East (1580), explains the agency Fides. From their arrival in 1577 until the end of the Spanish Franciscan Mission in 1898, Franciscan missionaries established and administered 207 parishes in Manila and other Philippine localities.

First Mass 

In September last year, the Philippine bishops informed that the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel in the Philippines would be extended for another year due to the Covid pandemic. Thus, the official opening ceremony of the event ̶ which will be the culmination of the commemorations and pastoral and missionary activities spread throughout the archipelago ̶ , will take place in April 2022, instead of April 2021.

The Philippine bishops have decided that the official date of the celebration will be April 17, 2022, Easter Sunday, when the first Mass celebrated in the archipelago will be commemorated. 

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines has recalled that the site of the historic Mass is the island of Limasawa in southern Leyte, celebrated on March 31, 1521, reports Fides. The Catholic Church also commemorates the First Baptism, which took place on April 14, 2021, an event that will be led by the Archdiocese of Cebu in the southern Philippines.

537 Jubilee temples

Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), has communicated that the The Church in the Philippines has presented the 537 pilgrimage sites for the faithful of the country who want to gain plenary indulgence and join the celebration of the five centuries of the arrival of the Gospel in the country. The 537 temples include parishes, chapels and places of pilgrimage, and many of them date back to the time of the first evangelization and the arrival of the first missionaries. Thus, next April 4, Easter Sunday, the "holy doors" of the 537 temples will be opened simultaneously, and will remain open until April 22, 2022.

Pope Francis has sent a decree approving a plenary indulgence for all the faithful who make a pilgrimage to one of the "jubilee churches". In the decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the pilgrims are asked to pray "for the fidelity of the Filipino people to their Christian vocation, for the increase of priestly and religious vocations and for the defense of the family, concluding with the Lord's prayer, profession of faith and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary."

Due to the Covid pandemic, the indulgence has been extended to the sick, the elderly and all those who cannot leave their homes. The decree asks priests to facilitate the celebration of the sacrament of Penance and the administration of Communion to the sick.

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