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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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Archdiocese of Medan

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Archdiocese of Medan
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The Archdiocese of Medan is located in the province of North Sumatra. This 181,680.68-kilometer-square province consists of 110,000-kilometer-square seas and 71,680.68-kilometer-square land. This province has more than 14 million population living in 25 districts and eight municipalities.

The archdiocese is based in Medan, the provincial capital. Medan is one of the biggest towns in Indonesia, the other two are Jakarta and Surabaya, capital of East Java province.

Population

North Sumatra is the fourth biggest province after East Java, West Java, and Central Java. According to 2010 Census, the number of population in the province is 14,506,808 people.

Many people live in villages - about 54.15 percent of total population. The rest live in suburbs areas.

The province has 419 islands with different ethnics, including Melayu Deli, Batak Toba, Batak Karo, Batak Pakpak, Batak Simalungun, Batak Mandailing and Nias.

Majority of people from Toba and Nias ethnics are Christians, while people from Mandailing dan Melayu ethnics are Muslims.

Language

Basically, Indonesian language is commonly used. In suburb areas, Chinese-descent people also use Hokkien language. In mountainous areas, Batak people use Batak language which is divided into four accents: Silindung, Samosir, Humbang and Toba. People of Nias ethnic have own language.

History

Catholicism was introduced in Indonesia in the seventh century. It can be proven by historical documents written in Arabian. In the year of 645, for example, there was a Catholic church called Virgin Mary which was located near Barus in Central Tapanuli. In addition, there were several Christian groups in western and northern Sumatra. And until the nineteenth century, there were about 4,000 European Catholics in Sumatra Island. At that time, the Catholic Church in Indonesia was taken care by the apostolic vicariate of Batavia.

In 1912, apostolic prefecture of Sumatra was established. Its first prefect was Monsignor Liberius Cluts, OFMCap, who lived in Padang. In 1921, Monsignor Cluts was succeeded by Monsignor Mathias Brans, OFMCap, who focused more on evangelization work among native people.

In order to improve the pastoral work, Sumatra Island, which is so wide, was divided into several parts. The southern part became the apostolic prefecture of Bengkulu and then apostolic vicariate of Palembang in 1923. In the same year, Bangka-Belitung became the apostolic prefecture of Pangkalpinang. The apostolic prefecture of Sumatra, which became the apostolic vicariate of Padang in 1932, was entrusted to Capuchin priests. They introduced Catholicism from western Sumatra to northern Sumatra. In 1931, a parish was established in Pematangsiantar. In Tapanuli, the church of Balige became the first parish established by Father Sybrandus van Rossum. The introduction of Catholicism was then spread over Samosir and Simalungun. In 1937, two parishes were established in Lintong Ni Huta and Sidikalang. The next year, a parish was established in Seribudolok. One year later, another parish was established in Onan Runggu. In 1940, two parishes respectively in Pangururan and Pakkat were established.

Catholicism was also introduced in Nias Island. The first parish was established in 1939.

Before the World War II, missioners had brought Catholicism to western and northern Sumatra. Seeing the rapid growth of the number of Catholics in northern Sumatra, the apostolic vicariate of Padang was then moved to Medan in 1941. Its name was also changed into the apostolic vicariate of Medan, which also covered Padang area.

During the occupation of Japanese troops, the missioners were sent to the concentration camp. Fortunately, lay leaders had been prepared by their priests for dealing with such situation. These lay leaders as well as catechists continued proclaiming the Good News even until 1950, when turmoil still remained.

In 1952, the apostolic vicariate of Medan was divided into Medan and Padang. The apostolic vicariate of Padang was served by the Xaverian priests from Parma, Italy. Meanwhile, the apostolic vicariate of Medan was served by Capuchin priests from the Netherlands, who were later supported by Capuchin priests from Germany. These German priests were invited by Monsignor Brans. He then left for the Netherlands in 1955. Monsignor Ferrerius van den Hurk, OFMCap replaced him.

On Nov. 17, 1959, the apostolic prefecture of Sibolga was established. On Jan. 3, 1961, the apostolic vicariate of Medan became the Archdiocese of Medan.

Transportation

In towns and cities, there are private cars, buses, public buses, motorbikes, bicycles, airplanes and trains. In remote areas, many people still walk and ride on horses. Areas served by the archdiocese of Medan can be reached by motorbikes and boats.

Climate

The province's climate is generally tropical: dry season (June-September) and rainy season (November-March). The temperature in Medan is around 24-34 degree Celsius.

Telecommunication

Thanks to sophisticated technology, 98 percent of all areas in the province can be reached by cellphones.

Education

In 2005, the number of dropouts in the province was 1,238,437 and the number of poor students was 8,452,054.

Religion

Religions followed by people living in the province are Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Protestantism as well as Parmalim and Animism.

Culture

The type of music is used based on traditional ritual, but many traditional rituals use traditional drums. People living in coastal areas have a traditional musical instrument called Sikambang.

The architecture of traditional houses have various ornaments. In general, the shape of a traditional house belonging to Batak people symbolizes "a buffalo standing upright." It will be clearer if the head of a buffalo is put on the top of the roof.

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