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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 Bagdogra

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Diocese of Bagdogra
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The diocesan territory of 1,110 square kilometres is among the four sub-divisions of Darjeeling district in West Bengal state. This area is known as the Terai plains. Siliguri is the main urban center, and a main city in West Bengal, but the diocese took the name of the smaller town of Bagdogra, which has an airport. The growing township of Siliguri has expanded into neighboring Jalpaiguri district too.

The major ethnic groups are: Bengali, Nepali, various tribal communities, Dalits, Biharis and Bhutanese. These include refugees from neighboring Bangladesh.

Major towns are: Siliguri, Bagdogra, and Matigara.

Population

As of 2018, the total population is 1,050,000.

Language

The main languages used are Bengali, Hindi, Oraon, Sadri, Santali, Nepali and English.

History

Many tribals from the Chhotanagpur area, now in Jharkhand state, in eastern India migrated here in the early 20th century to work in the tea gardens in the Darjeeling foothills. The Jesuits from Kurseong cared for the spiritual needs of these tribal migrants. The first mission station was established in Gayaganga in 1933 by Jesuit Father A. Bossaerts.

Gradually the number of Catholics and local vocations increased. To improve pastoral care for them, Bagdogra was separated from Darjeeling diocese and erected as a new diocese on June 14, 1997. Father Thomas D' Souza, the diocesan administrator of Darjeeling, was appointed its first bishop.

The Catholics are mostly tribal people originally from Chhotanagpur, primarily Oraon, Kharia, Munda, Santal and Baraik communities.

Climate

The climate is generally pleasant.

Economy

Tea gardens are a mainstay of the local economy, in which people also earn their living by cultivating rice and collecting stones to be used for road construction and railway tracks.

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