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 Beihai

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Diocese of Beihai
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Zhanjiang covers the cities of Leizhou, Wuchuan, Lianjiang, the counties of Suixi and Xuwen, and the districts of Chikan, Mazhang, Potou and Xiashan. It has a population of 714 million, in an area covering 13,000 sq. kilometers.

Zhanjiang is located in Leizhou Peninsula, the headland facing Hainan Island. Leizhou was originally called Donghezhou, but its name was changed in the seventh century, owing to the high incidence of thunderstorms (lei) during the Tang dynasty (618-907).

If officials of imperial China had to be demoted, Leizhou, known then as the "barbaric south," was where many were sent to. According to China Meteorological Administration, almost 30 people were killed on an average due to thunderstorms in Leizhou, the heartland of Leizhou Peninsula. Most strikes come in June and July, but the strikes can come at any time.

Xuwen county is the southernmost county in the mainland, and is the gateway to Hainan Island from mainland.


Though Mandarin is the official language of China, the local people of southern China prefer to speak in the Cantonese dialect.


Maoming city, which comes under Jiangmen diocese, was placed under the administration of Zhanjiang, in the year 1994. Zhanjiang cathedral was built in the same year. The Diocese of Zhanjiang was established in 1995, by the government-sanctioned “open” Church authorities.

Zhanjiang Diocese, one of the five dioceses in Guangdong province, is located mainly in the Leizhou Peninsula, about 2,200 kilometers southwest of Beijing and 380 kilometers southwest of Guangzhou.

Zhanjiang Diocese was earlier under the Beihai Diocese. Before People's Republic of China came into being in 1949, Beihai diocese consisted of Gaozhou, Leizhou, Linzhou and Qinzhou in Guangdong province. However, when the government revised the administrative division in 1965, Linzhou and Qinzhou were merged into Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR).

In line with the new arrangement, Beihai diocese was also divided. Linzhou and Qinzhou joined Nanning Diocese in the neighboring Guangxi region, while Gaozhou and Leizhou became part of the Guangzhou Diocese. Beihai was established as an Apostolic Vicariate in 1924, and became a diocese in 1946, remaining so to this day.

The Vatican Yearbook Annuario Pontificio has no listing of Zhanjiang diocese, but according to Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's letter to mainland Chinese bishops, dated April 22, 2008, Bishop Su has been addressed as papal-approved Bishop of Beihai/Zhanjiang.

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