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Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Catholicism in the Philippines

“…500 years have passed since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines. You received the joy of the Gospel... And this joy is evident in your people … We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers. In the joy with which you bring your faith to other lands …”

~ Pope Francis said in his homily of the Mass at the Vatican on March 14, formally opening the yearlong celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of Catholicism’s arrival in the Philippines.

A country of 7,641 islands at the sea of southeast Asia with a population of 109 million, of which more than 10 million are migrants living in almost 100 countries across the world.

Why the Pope calls Filipinos “smugglers of faith”? What makes the local Church so unique?

What is the Catholic population in the country? How many dioceses, bishops are there?

All you need to know about the Church in the Philippines in one click
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Church in Bangladesh

Capital : Dhaka
Population : 162 million
Catholics : 390,700
Jurisdictions : Two archdioceses and six dioceses
Parishes : 105
Major Religions : Islam 89.5%, Hinduism 8.5%, Buddhism 0.6% and Christianity 0.4%
European missioners began to arrive on the east coast of India in the 16th century. They were accompanied by Portuguese traders and mercenaries, who mostly hailed from the southwestern coast of India, a Portuguese stronghold at that time.

The first Portuguese expedition to Bengal landed in Chittagong in 1517. With the permission from Mughal Emperor Humayun, the Portuguese settled in Satgaon and later in Hooghly, which is now part of West Bengal provincial state in India. They also settled in the Arakan kingdom, currently the Rakhine state in Myanmar, and Diang and Chittagong in Bangladesh. The missionaries followed them later.

Two Portuguese Jesuit priests -- Fathers Francesco Fernandes and Domingo de Sousa -- built the first church of Bangladesh at Iswaripur in the Sundarbans forest area, south of present southern Satkhira town and dedicated it on January 1, 1600, as The Church of the Holy name of Jesus. Nothing of this first Christian structure remains now.

Later, the Portuguese Jesuits had to discontinue their activities in the Bangladesh area. However, they were replaced the Augustinian priests. Dom Antonio de Rozario, son of a local Hindu landlord, who was converted by the Portuguese, spearheaded the conversion of thousands of low-caste Hindus in the north of Dhaka.

Englishman William Carey was the first Protestant missionary to the east coast of India. He arrived at Serampore in West Bengal in 1793. Carey, a Baptist, heralded the new missionary era in Bengal. Since then, hundreds of Protestant churches and organizations have been established in the country.

Some 600,000 Christians live in Bangladesh now, a tiny minority in a predominantly Muslim country of 162 million people. The Catholic community, with some 390,700 members, is the single largest Christian group.

People from other religions in Bangladesh --Muslims and Hindus -- regard Christians highly for their significant contributions in the field of education, health and social development.

Christian missionaries have contributed to the Bengali language, promoting its colloquial and simplified form rather than its highly sophisticated version.

A catechism book printed in 1743 in Lisbon, Portugal, is the first colloquial Bengali book in print, and it made use of the Latin script. The missionaries are also credited with codifying the Bengali grammar and writing a Bengali-Portuguese and Portuguese-Bengali dictionary.
Carey translated and printed the Bible in Bengali, and wrote many other books and a dictionary in the Bengali language. He also helped develop Bengali typefaces for printing. He even published newspapers and periodicals.

Currently, Bangladesh has eight Catholic jurisdictions -- six dioceses and two archdioceses.
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