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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Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar

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Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar
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The archdiocese of Cuttack–Bhubaneswar comprises nine civil districts of Boudh, Cuttack, Kandhamal, Kendrapara, Khurda, Jagatsingpur, Jajpur, Nayagarh and Puri in Orissa state in eastern India.

The diocese of Cuttack was part of the diocese of Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) since 1845, when missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, (MSFS) established parishes and took care of the pastoral needs of the region.

During the First World War, the French Missionaries went back to France. On Jan. 10, 1922, a group of four Spanish Vincentian priests (Congregation of Mission) came to Orissa and they replaced the French MSFS missionaries.

On July 18, 1928, Pope Pius XI declared the Mission of Cuttack “Missio Sui Juris.” Father Valerian Guemes, CM, was appointed its administrator and later as the ecclesiastical superior. In 1937, the Cuttack Mission was elevated to a diocese and made a suffragan of Ranchi archdiocese and Msgr. Florencio Sanz Esperanza, CM, was appointed first bishop of Cuttack diocese in 1938.

In 1948, he retired and Msgr. Paul Tobar Gonzalves, CM, became his successor. On April 18, 1971, Bishop Tobar died and Father Vincent Urbaneja, CM, was elected administrator of the diocese.

On Jan. 24, 1974, the Cuttack Mission was divided into the metropolitan see of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar and the diocese of Berhampur. Msgr. Henry D’Souza was appointed the first archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. He was ordained on May 5, 1974, in Calcutta. In the same year the bishop’s residence was moved from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar, the state capital.

In April 1984, Archbishop D’Souza was called back to the archdiocese of Calcutta. On  Aug. 11, 1985, Bishop Raphael Cheenath, SVD, of the diocese of Sambalpur succeeded him as the archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

When Archbishop Cheenath retired Bishop John Barwa was selected as archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar on Feb. 11, 2011. Archbishop Barwa was installed on April 2, 2011, at our Lady of Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, Cuttack.

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