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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 Vietnam

Capital : Hanoi
Population : 95.54 million
Catholics : 6.74 million (6.6 %)
Jurisdictions : Three Archdioceses, 24 Dioceses
Parishes : 3073
Major Religions : Folk 73.2%, Buddhism12.2%, Christianity 8.3%, Caodaism 4.8%, Hoahaoism 1.4%, Others 0.1%
Christianity was introduced in Vietnam in the 16th century by the European missioners. However, mission activities gained strength only with the arrival of French Jesuit Father Alexandre de Rhodes in the 1620’s. The Franciscans and the Dominicans followed the Jesuits in the same decade.

Missioners, including Father Rhodes, created alphabets for the Vietnamese language from the Latin script and in 1651 they printed some Catholic texts and a dictionary for the first time in Vietnamese.

French missioners played a key role towards the end of the 18th century, when some of them politically helped Nguyan Ánh to conquer Vietnam and declare himself Emperor Gia Long in 1802. Nguyan tolerated the Catholic faith of his French friends and allowed unhindered mission activities. But that situation changed to an era of persecution after his death in 1820.

However, the influence the French in the trade and politics of Vietnam culminated in Vietnam becoming a French colony in 1887. The colonial rule continued until Vietnam's independence in 1954.

Protestantism was introduced in 1911 at Da Nang by a Canadian missionary, Dr. R.A. Jaffray. Some estimates say majority Protestants are ethnic tribal people.

Rights groups say Christians, especially from hilly areas, are still seen as "enemies" and targeted as "agents of America". They are reportedly arrested, tortured and starved behind the bars, despite the official claims of freedom of religion.

The government closely watches Christian communities and foreign missioners are legally not allowed to preach or perform any religious activities without government permission.

According to 2016 estimates, Vietnam has some 95.54 million people, 6.6 percent of them are Christians. According to Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, there were 6,745,823 Catholics in the country in 2016.

In 1960, the Catholic hierarchy was established in Vietnam and has 27 Dioceses, including three Archdioceses.
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