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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 Berhampur

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Diocese of Berhampur
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The diocese covers 51,289 square kilometers, comprising the Orissa state districts of Gajapati, Ganjam, Rayagada, Koratpur, Nawarangpur, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Malkangiri.

Berhampur, Rayagada, Bhanjanagar are the biggest towns in the diocese.

Population

8,999,654 total population

Language

Oriya, Pana, Kuie and Sauraare are the main languages used in the diocesan territory.

History

The seed of Catholicism in this region of Orissa can be traced back to the 17th century, when it was under the care of what is now Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese. By 1845, this region of Orissa was under the diocese of Visakhapatnam. In the course of time, the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales (MSFS) evangelized in the hilly region of Ganjam and Phulbani and the coastal belt of Berhampur and Cuttack.

After World War I, the MSFS Fathers handed over the Cuttack Mission to a group of four Spanish Vincentian (Congregation of the Mission) Fathers in 1923. Later, many other Spanish missionaries joined the mission, which progressed in leaps and bounds. The Mission of Cuttack was declared Missio Sui Juris by Pope Pius XI on July 18, 1928, and Father Valerian Guemes was appointed its Administrator and Ecclesiastical Superior.

In 1937, Cuttack Mission was raised to the status of a diocese, and in 1938 Msgr. Florence Sanz Esperanza, CM was appointed the first Bishop of Cuttack. In 1948, he retired and Bishop Paul Tobar Gonzalves, CM succeeded him. On April 18, 1971, Bishop Tobar died and Father Vincent Urbaneja, CM was elected Administrator of the diocese.

On Jan. 24, 1974, Cuttack was divided into Metropolitan See of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar and the diocese of Berhampur. Father Thomas Thiruthalil, CM was appointed the first Bishop of Berhampur and consecrated on May 5, 1974.

Bishop Thomas led the diocese for 16 years. With the help of many dedicated diocesan and Vincentian Fathers, he built upon the foundation laid by the MSFS and Spanish Vincentians. The diocese grew and progressed in a steady manner. On Jan. 13, 1990, Bishop Thiruthalil was transferred to the newly elevated diocese of Balasore and Father Joseph Das was elected the Diocesan Administrator shortly thereafter. The diocese waited and prayed for three long years to get its second bishop. Msgr. Joseph Das was ordained bishop on July 7, 1993. Bishop Das, a "son of the soil," knew the diocese inside out and served it for a long time. He was instrumental in changing the face of Berhampur Diocese. After a long illness, he died on Aug. 7, 2008, the year after he handed the diocese over to his successor, Bishop Nayak.

The diocese of Berhampur has grown from a small seed to a big plant with close to 120,000 Catholics, 78 diocesan priests and numerous Religious and seminarians.

Political

Cities are managed by corporations. Villages and small towns are administered by panchayat and municipalities, respectively. These local bodies are elected.

Transportation

The diocesan area is well connected in terms of transportation infrastructure by roads and railways. The nearest airport is in Bhubaneshwar city.

Economy

Per capita income is 20,249 rupees (US$453 as of March 2011). Farming is the primary occupation. Rice is widely grown in the area, which is also rich in minerals.

Telecommunication

Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area. The diocese is well covered by local cable TV networks.

Education

63 percent literacy rate

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