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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 Brunei

Capital : Bandar Seri Begawan
Population : 459,000
Catholics : 17,000
Jurisdictions : One Apostolic Vicariate
Parishes : Three
Major Religions : Islam 67%, Buddhism 13%, Christianity 10%
Brunei is an Islamic country where the Sharia law regulates life. Evangelization is strictly forbidden in the country. Besides, contact with Christians in other countries, import of the Bible and public displays of celebrations like Christmas are banned in the country by the royal decree. The teaching of non-Muslim religions in schools and marriages between Christians and Muslims are also prohibited.

The country has some 459,900 people as of 2019. Christians account for nearly 10 percent of the population. Catholics are reported to be 17,000, forming just 3.7 percent of the population. Catholics in Brunei find their roots in the ministry of the Missionary Society of St. Joseph (Mill Hill Missionaries).

Christianity first arrived in Brunei when Spanish missionaries from the Philippines reached there in the 16th century. For many years, the Church in Brunei was administered by various ecclesiastical jurisdictions based in Labuan, Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), Kuching and Miri cities of Malaysia.

The separation of Bruneian territory, formerly under the Diocese of Miri-Brunei (now known as the Diocese of Miri in Malaysia), created a distinct Bruneian Church. This separated territory was designated as an apostolic prefecture in November 1997, to be headed by the then Monsignor Cornelius Sim. This Bruneian priest was the vicar general of Miri-Brunei and was its first apostolic prefect.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Brunei Darussalam was established in February 22, 1998. On October 20, 2004, it was elevated to an apostolic vicariate. Monsignor Sim was named its first apostolic vicar, carrying the dignity of a titular bishop. The official celebrations and Episcopal ordination took place on January 21, 2005.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei Darussalam covers the territory of Brunei, and the Apostolic Vicar Bishop Cornelius Sim leads it.
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