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 Miri

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Diocese of Miri
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In a land area of 42,235 square kilometers the diocesan territory covers Miri, Bintulu and Limbang divisions of Sarawak state.


As of 2003, there were approximately 583,000 people living in the diocesan territory.


Malay is the national language. English, Iban, various Chinese dicalects and various indigenous languages also used.


In 1807, Pope Pius VII erected the Prefecture of the East Indies, which Pope Gregory XVI made a Vicariate on Sept. 20, 1842. This territory embraced all of what is now Indonesia, including the part of Borneo today forming East Malaysia and Brunei.

In 1885, Pope Pius IX separated the Island of Labuan and North Borneo (which were British dependent territories) from the Vicariate, making it a Prefecture and entrusted it to the legendary Father Carlo Guarteron.

In 1878, the Mill Hill Society was invited by the Pope to take over Borneo Mission and, three years later, in 1881, the first Mill Hill priests arrived in Kuching. In 1885, the first Franciscan missionary sisters arrived.

In 1927, the Prefecture Apostolic of Sarawak was established. Twenty-five years later, 1952 the Vicariate Apostolic of Kuching was erected by the Holy See and Msgr. J. Vos was ordained the first Catholic bishop in Sarawak.

In 1995 the local congregation of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis of Sarawak was founded by local-born sisters who separated from their European Franciscan counterparts.

On Dec. 19, 1959, the Vicariate of Miri was established and, in the following year, Father Anthony D. Galvin was consecrated the first bishop of the Miri Vicariate. He was ordained by Pope John XXIII in Rome on May 5, 1960.

On Jan. 2, 1966, Father Anthony Lee, Miri Vicariate's first local priest, was ordained.

On May 31, 1976, Pope Paul VI established a new Church province in East Malaysia and Miri Vicariate was raised to the level of a Diocese.

On Sept. 5 of the same year, Bishop Galvin died suddenly while on holiday in his native England.

On May 20, 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed Father Anthony Lee as the first bishop of the Diocese of Miri. He was ordained bishop in St. Joseph's Cathedral, Miri, on Nov. 20 and the Diocese of Miri was officially proclaimed on the same day.


Equatorial (hot and humid throughout the year)


Mainly oil and tourism.


Mainly mountainous or hilly with a strip of coastal lowland.

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