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 Timor Leste (East Timor)

Capital : Dili
Population : 1.20 million
Catholics : 1.15 million (95.73 %)
Jurisdictions : One Archdiocese, Two Dioceses
Parishes : 58
Major Religions : Catholicism 97%, Islam 1%, Protestant 1%
The Portuguese and Dutch traders maintained contact with East Timor in the early 16th century and Portugal took over control of the country until 1974. For a brief period, the country was occupied by Japan during World War II.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the former Portuguese colony. The Church played an important role in the society during the Indonesian occupation and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo became one of the most prominent advocates for human rights and many priests and nuns risked their lives in defending citizens from military abuses.

Pope St. John Paul II's 1989 visit to East Timor exposed the occupied country’s situation to the world and provided a catalyst for independence. In 1996, Bishop Carlos Belo and José Ramos-Horta, two leading East Timorese activists for peace and independence, received the Nobel Peace Prize for "their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor".

Since its independence from Indonesia 1999, East Timor became a predominantly Catholic country in Asia (after the Philippines), a legacy of its status as a former Portuguese colony. While just 20 percent of East Timorese called themselves Catholics at the time of the 1975 invasion, the figure surged to reach 95 percent by the end of the first decade after the invasion.

The local Catholic Church is involved in politics. The number of churches has grown from 100 in 1974 to over 800 in 1994. About 95.73 percent of the population is Catholic as of 2016, which means over 1,151,075 faithful.

The country is divided into three dioceses: Dili, Baucau and Maliana. The Apostolic Nuncio to East Timor is concurrently the nuncio to Indonesia.
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