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 Shillong

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Archdiocese of Shillong
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In a land area of 5,196 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers civil districts of East Khasi Hills and Ri Bhai in the state of Meghalaya. Shillong is the biggest town in the diocese.


In the diocesan territory, the population is 1,170,000 at the end of 2017. Khasi, Garo, Karbi are the major ethnic tribal groups in the diocese.


Khasi, Pnar, Hindi, English, Assamese, Garo, Karbi, Tiwa and Nepali are the languages used in the diocesan territory.


In 1889, the Prefecture Apostolic of Assam was created with headquarters at Shillong, and was entrusted to the German Salvatorian Fathers. With the outbreak of World War I, the German Salvatorian Fathers were forced to return to their country and the Jesuits of Calcutta looked after Assam till it was entrusted to the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1921.

In 1934, the Diocese of Shillong was erected and Father Louis Mathias, SDB, was appointed as its first bishop. Following his transfer to Madras, Bishop Stephen Fernando, SDB, of Krishnagar diocese was transferred to Shillong as its second bishop in 1935.

In 1951, the diocese of Shillong was bifurcated and the diocese of Dibrugarh was created. In 1964, the diocese of Shillong was once again divided and a new diocese of Tezpur was created. In 1969, Shillong diocese was raised to the status of a Metropolitan See and a new ecclesiastical province of Shillong-Guwahati was created and Bishop Hubert D'Rosario, SDB, was transferred from Dibrugarh to Shillong as its first archbishop. The Archdiocese of Shillong-Guwahati was divided again in 1973 to form the diocese of Tura.

The next division of Shillong-Guwahati archdiocese is the creation of Diphu diocese in 1983. On Sept. 23, 1990, Bishop Tarcisius Resto Phanrang, SDB, was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Shillong-Guwahati. Further bifurcation of Shillong-Guwahati archdiocese was made in 1992 with the creation of Guwahati diocese. On Aug. 1, 1995, Bishop Tarcisius Phanrang was appointed archbishop of Shillong.

Archbishop Resto Phanrang went to his eternal reward on May 5, 1999. At the death of Archbishop Phanrang on May 5, 1999, Father Michael Marbaniang was appointed as the diocesan administrator. On April 2, 2000, Father Dominic Jala, SDB, was ordained archbishop of Shillong.


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 well connected in terms of transport infrastructure by roads. The nearest airport is in Guwahati city.


The per capita income in the archdiocese is 18,274 ($395) as of November 2009. Farming especially vegetables like potatoes, cauliflowers are grown in the diocesan area. A few industries like cement factories are situated near the Assam border.


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


Nearly 70.9 percent is the literacy rate in the diocesan territory.

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