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 Meerut

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Diocese of Meerut
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In an area of 28,337 square kilometers, Meerut diocese covers civil districts in two northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Dehra Dun, Haridwar, Moradabad, Rampur, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Ghaziabad, Baghpat and the tehsil of Dhampur in Bijnor district. Most of the people are Hindus and Muslims. Christians are mostly poor and live in the villages. Meerut diocese has the highest number of Catholics in the region.


The languages spoken by the 30, 000,000 people in the diocese are Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and English.


Detached from Agra archdiocese, Meerut diocese was formed on Feb 20, 1956. The first bishop was Bishop Joseph B. Evangelisti OFM CAP. He was succeeded by Bishop Patrick Nair (1974- 2009). Bishop Oswald Joseph Lewis was ordained co-adjutor bishop in 1998 and in 2005 he was transferred to be the first bishop of the newly created Jaipur diocese.

The new diocese of Bijnor was formed in May 1972, detaching the civil districts of Bijnor (excluding Dhampur tehsil), Chamoli, Garhwal, Tehri and Uttarkashi form Meerut diocese.

The Church of Our Lady of Graces in Sardhana was raised to the status of a minor basilica by on Dec. 13, 1961. It was built in 1822 by the then Queen Begum Yohanna Sumru, a Muslim convert. It is a pilgrim center.

The diocese also has a strong prison ministry: 'Asha Kiran.'


Most of the villagers are involved in farming. They cultivate rice, sugarcane, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize, pulses, oil seeds, potato, tobacco and cotton. The Ganga River and its tributaries make the land fertile.

Most of the rural population consists of dalits (former untouchables).

Ghaziabad in the diocese has many industries like sugar mills, steel, chemical and car factories.


Missionary thrust was the focus of the diocese. It has been giving importance to education: running local Hindi medium schools in villages and English medium schools in towns. They are mainly run by Religious Sisters and Brothers, allowing the priests to focus on the pastoral ministries.


The antiquities discovered from like Meerut connect its history to the early stone age and the Harappan culture.

The area has many holy shrines and pilgrim centers. Haridwar is an important pilgrim center for the Hindus. Thousands of devotees gather here for the Kumbh Mela. The hill station Mussorie is a great tourist center, especially in summer.

Ornamental brassware work is famous in Moradabad and carved woodwork in Saharanpur in the diocese.

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