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 Ketapang

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Diocese of Ketapang
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Ketapang diocese covers 35,300 square kilometers and includes the district of Ketapang in West Kalimantan province.

The Church of Ketapang was started in 1910. On July 1, 1950, Capuchin Archbishop Herkulanus van Valenberg of Pontianak established Ketapang as a mission area and asked the Congregation of the Passion of "Mater Sanctae Spei" of the Netherlands to serve here. Passionist Father Raphael Kleyne worked here from July 1, 1950, to Feb. 27, 1952, when he died in a motorboat accident. Passionist Father Gabriel Sillekens replaced him in 1953 as delegate vicar.

On June 26, 1954, Pope Pius XII increased the status of Ketapang from mission area to be apostolic prefecture with Passionist Father Gabriel Wilhelmus Sillkens as the first its first apostolic prefect.

In January 1961, Pope John Paul XXIII established the Catholic hierarchy in Indonesia. Ketapang was declared a diocese on Jan. 3, 1961, and Father Sillkens was appointed the first bishop. He was consecrated in 1962.

About 60 percent of the inhabitants of Ketapang district are Muslim Malay, 30 percent are from the native tribe of Daya-Klemantan. The others are Arabians, Chinese, Javanese, Maduranese, Bataknese, Florinese and Bugisnese.

The first Catholics were five Chinese families from Swatow, China, who were first visited by a priest in 1911. The Passionists came to Ketapang in 1947 to minister to 600 Catholics formerly served by the Capuchins.

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