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 Hpa-an

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Diocese of Hpa-an
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Hpa-an is the capital city of Kayin State. Karen State is composed of 3 districts and 7 townships. The three districts are Hpa-an District, Myawaddy District and Kawkareik District. The 7 townships are Hpa-an township, Hlaignbwe township, Hpapun township, Thandang township, Myawaddy township, Kawkareik township, Kyain-Seikgyi township.

It has common borders with Mandalay Division, Shan State on the north, Thailand on the east, Mon State and Bago Division on the west. Hpa-an Diocese comprises of all above mentioned 7 townships and part of Mon State. It comprises of the capital city, urban areas, satellite towns and villages near and remote, including undeveloped places. One can see different races, different levels of living standard and different nationalities. The territory is located at the south of Myanmar and covers an area of 30,383 square kilometers with hills, mountains and fields. The total population as of 2008 statistics is 1,160,000 and the total number of Catholics in the Diocese of Hpa-an is 10,781.

Buddhism is the most dominant religion in the Diocese of Hpa-an. About 12 percent of the population are Christians, 85 percent are Buddhists. There are also Muslims, Hindus and Animists. 12 parishes with around 400 villages are serving the people in the diocese.

Pope Benedict XVI has created the new Diocese of Hpa-an with territory detached from the Archdiocese of Yangon on Jan. 24, 2009 and has appointed Bishop Justin Saw Min Thide as its first bishop. He was installed on Dec. 3, 2009 as Bishop of Hpa-an by Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Apostolic Delegate to the Union of Myanmar.

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