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?

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Apostolic Prefecture of Jiamusi

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Apostolic Prefecture of Jiamusi
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In a land area of approximately 31,258 sq. kilometres, the diocesan territory covers the prefecture-level cities of Jiamusi and Yichun, Shuangyashan, and Qitaihe in the eastern part of Heilongjiang province.


Jiamusi has a population of 23.3 lakhs as per the 2018 census, of which 12.5 lakhs resided in the urban area that covered the ethnic minorities, namely Han, Korean, Manchu, Hezhen, Mongol, Hui, and the like.

The population of Yichun city, which also has a church, is around 54.2 lakhs. Shuangyashan and Qitaihe cities have a population of around 14.6 lakhs and 9.2 lakhs respectively.


The Mission "Sui iuris" (or independent mission) of Ilan was erected in 1928 and was later renamed to Jiamusi in 1937. It was elevated to an Apostolic Prefecture in 1940 and was entrusted to the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscan) missioners.


Jiamusi Airport is located 10 kilometres east towards the Jiamusi city. Flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin, and Guangzhou, and even international flights to Khabarovsk, in Russia can be accessed from this airport, which is situated in the southern part of the Tongjiang-Sanya Highway. The railways in Jiamusi connect Harbin, Mudanjiang, Hegang, and Shuangyashan to other cities, whereas the highways connect Jiamusi with Harbin and Tongjiang.


Jiamusi has a monsoon-influenced humid continental climate, with long, dry winters and humid, warm summers. Temperatures range from 12.7-27.6 degrees Celcius, from January through July. The months from June-August witness more than 60% of the annual precipitation.


Jiamusi had a GDP of RMB 101.2 billion with a 4.3% growth rate, in the year 2018.


The prefecture-level city is situated on the banks of the Songhua River, in Heilongjiang Province. Jiamusi shares its border with Harbin towards the west and Shuangyashan towards the east. Two rivers, Wusuli and Heilongjiang, separates it from Russia, in the east and north respectively.


Established in the year 1947, Jiamusi University covers 1,490,000 sq. metres, with a floor space of 840,130 sq. metres. There are 22 colleges and a department directly under the University, where over 500 international students enroll for short and long-term training programs, every year.


Jiamusi was an ancient bridle road of the Songhua river, which led to the Heilongjiang River estuary. Once inhabited by the Sushen ethnic group, there has been no record of the origin of Jiamusi, yet. It became an active town only after the 20th century.

Jiamusi is now home to ethnic groups like Han, Mongol, and Hui, besides the Hezhen, Korean, and Manchu ethnic minorities. It has four ethnic townships, of which two belong to the Korean, namely the Xinghuo and Tangwang, and the other two ethnic townships belong to the Hezhen, namely Jiejinkou and Bacha. Known for its fishing culture all through Northern China, Jiamusi’s cuisine includes seafood and its people use specialized clothing and ornaments made of fish skin and bones.

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