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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?

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Diocese of Palayamkottai

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Diocese of Palayamkottai
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Population

The diocesan territory had a population of 3,233,466 as of 2016-end.. Most residents are ethnic Tamils, Telegus and Malayalees.

Language

English, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu are the languages used.

History

Before the erection of the diocese of Palayamkottai, this area was evangelized by the Society of Jesus of Madurai Jesuit Province. The history of Christianity here begins from the time of St. Francis Xavier in 1542. The Madurai mission then took care of the spiritual needs of Catholics. Some of the renowned Jesuit missionaries like St. John de Britto (1686-1688), martyred in Oriyur which is now in the diocese of Sivagangai, and Father Constantine Beschi who spent part of his missionary life in this area helped strengthen Christians here. From the beginning of the 20th century, diocesan priests from the diocese of Trichirapalli cared for the spiritual needs of Catholics.

After the erection of the archdiocese of Madurai, this area came under its jurisdiction. Pope Paul VI on May 17, 1973, decreed the erection of the diocese of Palayamkottai, which became the 13th diocese in Tamil Nadu region. The first bishop of Palayamkottai, Bishop S. Iruthayaraj, took canonical possession of the diocese on Sept. 9, 1973, and was consecrated on Sept. 12, 1973 at Palayamkottai by Archbishop P. Justin Diraviam of Madurai archdiocese.

Bishop S. Iruthayaraj pastored the diocese for 26 years and contributed to its growth in the various fields of spiritual, pastoral, educational, social, developmental and ecumenical activities. He voluntarily retired from his episcopal ministry in July, 1999. On Nov. 9, 2000, Rome announced Father Jude Paulraj, who was then rector of Christ Hall Major Seminary, Madurai, as the second bishop of Palayamkottai. He was consecrated by Archbishop Arockiasamy of Madurai at Palayamkottai on Dec. 8, 2000.

Political

Towns are governed by municipalities, whereas villages and small towns are administered by local bodies called panchayats. The members of the local bodies are elected by adult suffrage.

Transportation

The diocesan area is well connected in terms of transport infrastructure by roads and railway. The nearest airport is in Madurai.

Geography

The diocesan territory covers 6,103 square kilometers and includes the entire civil district of Tirunelveli and one taluk from neighboring Tuticorin district. Tirunelveli is the biggest town in the diocese.

Economy

The per capita income in the diocesan territory was Rs 19,092 ($416) as of September 2006. Major industries are farming, fireworks, matchsticks and tobacco.

Telecommunication

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

Education

The literacy rate is 76.09 percent.

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