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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Diocese of Kohima

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Diocese of Kohima
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In a land area of 16,579 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the entire state of Nagaland in Northeastern India. Kohima is the Capital and Dimapur is the biggest city in the diocese.


In the diocesan territory, the population is 1,978,502 at the end of 2019. Nagas are the major ethnic groups. They are divided into various tribes: Angami, Rengma, Zeliang, Kuki, Kacharis, Chakhesang, Pochury, Ao, Konyak, Phom, Khiamniungan, Chang, Yimchunger, Sangtam, Lotha and Sumi.


Diocese of Kohima shares international border with Myanmar. The inhabitants, belonging to the 16 major tribes and other sub tribes of Mangoloid race, are collectively called Nagas. Each tribe is unique with its own dialect, customs, traditions, attire, etc.

The history of Christianity began in Nagaland with the American Baptists stationed in Upper Assam extending their mission into the hills. By 1905, there were about 500 Christians among Nagas.

The mission of the Catholic Church in Kohima began in December 1948, when the Sisters of Missionaries of Christ Jesus along with Monsignor Emmanuel Bars, SDB, arrived in Kohima. They arrived on the request of the then governor of Assam, Sir. Akbar Hydari.

There were strict restrictions on evangelization.

The initial Catholic contacts in Nagaland took place at another end of the state simultaneously. That was at Lakhuti, bordering the state of Assam. A group of Lothas invited Catholic priests from Golaghat Mission to open a mission at Lakhuti. There was opposition from villagers against the Catholic priests.

Within short span of time, the heroic beginnings lead to tangible results that witnessed the creation of separate diocese for the states of Nagaland and Manipur

The Catholics of Nagaland and Manipur were under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Dibrugarh until 1973, when the diocese of Kohima-Imphal was erected comprising the states of Nagaland and Manipur with Abraham Alangimattathil, SDB, as its first bishop.

In 1980, the diocese was further bifurcated with the formation of the Imphal diocese comprising the state of Manipur.

The Church in Nagaland is now blessed with over 62,533 believers and a committed team of over 600 missionaries.


The City is managed by corporation. The villages and small towns are administered by elected local bodies called panchayats and municipalities respectively.


The diocesan area is moderately connected in terms of transport infrastructure. The only airport is in Dimapur which is 74 kilometres away from Kohima. The sole railway station in the diocese also is in Dimapur.


Per capita income in the diocese territory is Rs 78,367 ($998) as of April 2020. Industries like sugar mill and bamboo factories are also operational. Agriculture is the main occupation. Rice, maize and chillies are grown.


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


Nearly 79.55 percent is the literacy rate in the diocesan territory.

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