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?

All you need to know about the Church in the Philippines in one click
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Archdiocese of Pontianak

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Archdiocese of Pontianak
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The 39,840 square kilometer (21, 45 percent of West Kalimantan) archdiocese of Pontianak covers seven districts -- Pontianak, Kubu Raya, Kabupaten Pontianak, Singkawang, Sambas, Bengkayang and Landak. It borders with South China Sea in the north and west, Sanggau diocese and East Malaysia in the east, and Java Sea and Ketapang diocese in the south.


Catholics in the archdiocese consists of several ethnic backgrounds, such as: Dayak, Chinese, Javanese, Papuan, Toraja (people of South Sulawesi), and Timorese and Florinese (people of East Nusa Tenggara).


The history of Catholicism began in 1313 when a Franciscan priest came to Singkawang, West Kalimantan. It was then widespread to all parts of West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan. In 1688, Jesuit priests arrived in Kalimantan and hence the number of Catholics got bigger. In 1692, Pope Innocent XII established the vicariate apostolic of Borneo. However, the mission did not work since the vicar apostolate was killed by indigenous people. As a result, the Gospel spreading activities were totally prohibited and hence Jesuit priests left Singkawang in 1897.

On Feb. 11, 1905, the Holy See established apostolic prefecture of Dutch Borneo, which was based in Singkawang. As its name suggests, it covered Borneo Island which was occupied by the Dutchs. The prefecture then was entrusted to the Capuchins. On April 10, 1905, Capuchin Father Pacificus Boss was appointed apostolic prefect and he, together with three priests and two brothers, moved to Singkawang on Nov. 30, 1905. At that time, Singkawang had already 150 Catholics.

In 1907, Capuchins opened their first mission station in Laham, East Kalimantan, while Pontianak mission station was opened in 1909. The apostolic prefecture of Dutch Borneo was then based in Pontianak since it was considerably strategic.

Since the Church was broadly developed, the apostolic prefecture was elevated into the apostolic vicariate of Dutch Borneo on March 14, 1918, and Father Pacificius was chosen as vicar apostolic and ordained a bishop on Nov. 17, 1918.

On May 21, 1938, the apostolic vicariate of Pontianak was officially established. Capuchin Bishop Tarcisius Henricus Josephus van Valenberg succeeded Bishop Pacificius, who resigned as vicar apostolic of Pontianak, on Dec.10, 1934.

The apostolic vicariate of Pontianak was elevated into the archdiocese on Jan. 3, 1961, and Capuchin Bishop Herculanus Joannes Maria van der Burgt was appointed archbishop. He died on July 2, 1976. On Feb.26, 1977, Capuchin Bishop Hieronymus Herculanus Bumbun was appointed archbishop of Pontianak. Its suffragan dioceses include Sanggau, Sintang, and Ketapang.

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