WelCom April 2021
The Catholic Church in the Philippines has chosen Easter Sunday, 4 April 2021, to formally inaugurate the year-long celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. On Easter Sunday, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), will officiate at the opening of the ‘Holy Doors’ of pilgrim churches across the nation. The jubilee celebration theme is ‘Gifted to Give’.
The Christian faith that arrived in the Philippines 500 years ago is very much alive today in the joyful witness to evangelical charity by Catholics, even in hard times, says Archbishop Valles. The Philippine Church has been preparing for this jubilee celebration for nine years, with each year having a specific theme.
The theme for the 500 Years of Christianity celebration is ‘Gifted to Give’, from Matthew’s Gospel (10:8). Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the 2021 observance ‘is a reminder of how Filipinos embraced the Catholic faith’.
It began when the 16th-century Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan led a Spanish expedition to the so-called ‘East Indies’ and reached what is today known as the Philippines on 16 March, 1521. His sailors had planned to remain there for a month and a half. It is believed during that time, the first Mass was celebrated on Filipino soil on 31 March, 1521, on the island of Limasawa, south of Leyte. Some 800 were baptised to form the first Catholic community.
‘Faith is a gift from God. And so, we are joyful in this special jubilee year,’ Archbishop Valles said. ‘It is joyful to believe and entrust our lives to Jesus.’ Life in the Philippines, he said, is difficult but faith helps the people to be strong amidst the storms of life and forge ahead, assured that the Lord is with them. ‘This is the reason behind the joy of the 500 years of the Christian faith in the Philippines – the joy of living in the Lord.’
This faith also entails the duty to evangelise, said Archbishop Valles. ‘But first we need to deeply realise and appreciate we are gifted – gifted with faith from the Lord’.
Archbishop Valles said the people in the Philippines had undergone many hardships in the last few years – the pandemic, earthquakes, a volcano eruption and typhoons.
‘I’m amazed at our people and our churches,’ he said. ‘It has been a difficult situation but I believe the Church in the Philippines, in a very silent way, has been a witness to evangelical charity.’
Today, with over 80 per cent of its estimated population of some 105 million identifying themselves as Catholics, the Philippines is home to Asia’s largest Catholic population.
Sources: Vatican News, CBCP News