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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Archdiocese of Dhaka

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Archdiocese of Dhaka
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The archdiocesan area of 26,788 sq. kilometres includes one of the country's eight divisions. It comprises the civil districts of Brahmanbaria, Chandpur, Comilla, Dhaka, Gazipur, Manikganj, Munshiganj, Narsingdi and Narayanganj. Dhaka is the national capital of Bangladesh.

By the second half of the 16th century, Catholics lived in various parts of present day Bangladesh. These areas included Hoshenpur of Mymensingh district and Sripur near Sonargaon, the old capital of eastern Bengal. When Mylapore (Chennai, India) was made a diocese in 1606, the mission stations of Bengal were placed under its jurisdiction. Among the churches erected by the Augustinians at that time were those at Nagori in 1695, and Tejgaon in 1677.

In 1834, the Vicariate Apostolic of Bengal was created under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In 1850, this Vicariate was divided into two, the Apostolic Vicariates of Eastern and Western Bengal. In 1852, the Vicariate of Eastern Bengal, with its headquarters in Dhaka, was entrusted to the newly-founded Congregation of the Holy Cross, whose first missioners arrived in 1853. The congregation still serves in Bangladesh.

The first Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Bengal, Monsignor Thomas Oliffe, served during 1852-53. From 1855 to 1859, Father Louis Verite CSC served as Pro Vicar Apostolic. His successor Father Pierre Dufal CSC was named Vicar Apostolic in 1860 and was ordained a bishop in France. He returned to Dhaka in 1861 and served there until 1876.

From 1876 to 1889, when the Holy Cross missionaries were recalled by their superior to France, the vicariate was administered by Benedictine monks of the Anglo-Belgian province. Dom Cuthbert Downey served as Pro Vicar Apostolic and Dom Gregory de Groote as administrator.

In 1889, the Holy Cross missionaries returned, led by Father Michael Fallize. The Diocese of Dhaka had been canonically erected on September 1, 1886, its territory including that of the present day dioceses of Chittagong  (Bangladesh), Silchar (Assam, India), and Prome (Myanmar). Chittagong  was removed from the jurisdiction of Dhaka in 1927.

When it gained independence in 1947, Dhaka was still a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Calcutta in India. In July 1950, Dhaka was raised to an archdiocese, heading a new ecclesiastical province with Chittagong , Dinajpur and Jessore (present-day Khulna) dioceses as suffragans. Holy Cross Father Lawrence Leo Graner was appointed the first Archbishop of Dhaka.

In September 1960, Pope John XXlll gave Dhaka (and Bangladesh as a whole) its first Bengali bishop in the person of Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius A. Ganguly, CSC. In November 1967, Bishop Ganguly became the first Bengali Archbishop of Dhaka. Following his death in September 1977, Bishop Michael Rozario of Dinajpur was appointed the third Archbishop of Dhaka on December 17, 1977. He was installed on April 9, 1978.

In the meantime, Bangladesh had won its independence from Pakistan in December 1971, and the archdiocese, as the only metropolitan see for all of Bangladesh, grew in importance and received greater responsibility.


Bengali (Bangla) is widely spoken, while English is the second language, especially among the educated people. The Indian languages of Hindi and Telegu are also spoken, as well as the tribal languages of the Garo, Khasi, Santali and Oraon.


Buses and other road transport are the primary means of reaching the different parts of the archdiocese. Trains and boats serve some areas, and rickshaws and trishaws are still popular in remote villages.


Sub-districts and district towns have telecommunications services that are now extending to villages. Mobile phones are available even at the countryside. Bangladesh Television (BTV), situated in Dhaka, is the only TV broadcasting station there, and it covers the whole country.

There are also two or three state-run radio stations located in Dhaka, and one or two private FM radio stations that serve Dhaka city. Satellite and cable TV are available in towns and some villages.

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