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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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Diocese of Sylhet

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Diocese of Sylhet
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Sylhet is a metropolitan city in the northeastern Bangladesh and is the administrative seat of the Sylhet division.

Sylhet is one of Bangladesh's most important spiritual and cultural centers, and is one of the most important cities of Bangladesh after Dhaka and Chittagong, due to its importance to the country's economy.

Population

As per the 2017 Bangladesh census, the city had a population of around 13,466,882. The population growth rate is 1.73 percent, which has gone down from 1.93 percent in 1991. The total number of households in the city was 55,514. 

The majority of the population is Bengali Muslims of the Sylheti background, while there are minority groups. Sylheti is spoken by the vast majority, while standard Bengali is the official language.

Muslims constitute 87.2 percent of the population. Other religious groups include Hindus (12.6 percent) and Buddhists and Christians account for less than 0.2 percent. The majority of the Muslims are mainly Sunni Hanafi; and there are significant numbers of people who also follow Sufi ideals.

History

Sylhet was canonically erected as a Catholic diocese by Pope Benedict XVI on July 8, 2011. This new diocese consists of four civil districts, covering 12,594 sq. km. There are 17,000 Catholics.

In the 17th century, there were Christians in parts of Srihotto, which comprised the present-day Sylhet division, covering the four northeastern districts. Father Loi Jose Anjus, an Augustinian missionary who was in-charge of the Nagari Catholic Church in Dhaka, came to Srihotto in 1695, to take care of the Christians there. He died there and his body was taken to Bandel in West Bengal. The mission was discontinued after his death, therefore the number of Christians decreased there while many of them left for Bondashill and Badarpur in India.

The Assam Apostolic Prefecture was created in 1898, and Assam and Srihotto were placed under the new prefecture. The Salvatorist missionaries looked after the area from Assam. They used to reside in Sylhet in 1912, and Father Ansger Kenisbaour SDS, bought a piece of land there. After World War I, in 1918, the Salvatorist Missionaries were asked to leave by the British government, as they were from Germany. The Jesuit Missionaries who came all the way from Ranchi in India worked here in the Assam Prefecture from Guwahati, from the year 1918. From 1923 onwards, the Salesian Missionaries worked in Sylhet from the Assam Prefecture.

There are seven parishes in the diocese of Sylhet. There are six parishes under the Oblate Fathers and one parish under the Holy Cross Fathers. There are 10,000 Catholics in Srimangal parish under the Holy Cross Fathers. There are three male and five female congregations who serve in this diocese. The priests and religious together are 45 in number. The new diocese has four local priests and the Archdiocese of Dhaka has given two more local priests to the diocese.

Political

There is no separate political structure in the diocesan territory. There are 19 parliamentary seats out of 300 for Sylhet. Citizens elect their representatives to those seats. No serious disruption of democracy is seen in the region. Minorities can vote and take part in politics without any pressure. The people of Sylhet city have the opportunity to elect their mayor for the Sylhet city corporation.

Transportation

Sylhet is connected to all parts of the country by land, and to some extent by air. Buses, trains, planes and private vehicles are the main modes of transport to Sylhet city. Roads and highways connect the city to towns and to rural areas of the diocese.

Geography

The diocese covers a total 9,807,000 in 12,595.95 sq. km. (4,863.32 sq mi) land area. Sylhet division, also known as Greater Sylhet or Sylhet region, is the northeastern division of Bangladesh, named after its main city, Sylhet. It is bounded by Meghalaya in the north, Tripura in the south, Assam in the east, Dhaka division in the west, and Chittagong division in the southwest. 

Sylhet division is one of the most picturesque and archeologically rich regions of South Asia. Its bourgeoning economy has become a part of the attractions of the region, as landscapes are filled with fragrant orange and pineapple gardens, and breathtaking tea plantations.

Economy

The per capita income in the diocesan territory is $35. Tea cultivation is the main agricultural product and the other agricultural products include rice, rubber, betel-leaf, pineapple, orange, etc.

Telecommunication

There are many cell phone service providers, in addition to government and private landline service providers. Cell phones are popularly used in the area.

Education

The literacy rate of the diocesan territory is 40.66 percent.

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