Manila was established as a suffragan diocese of Mexico, now Central America, on Feb. 6, 1579 by Pope Gregory XIII by virtue of the Apostolic Constitution "Illius fulti praesido," following the first successful missionary efforts.
In 1578, Fray Domingo Salazar, OP was appointed first bishop of the diocese, taking possession of his ecclesiastical seat in 1581. The church which was earlier built by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in the site where the Manila Cathedral now stands became the seat of the diocese under the patronage of La Purisima Imaculada Concepcion de Nuestra Señora. Under him the First Synod of Manila was held among whose decisions were the teaching of catechism in the native dialect and the declaration of the human rights of the native Christians and non-Christians.
Since Bishop Salazar, thirty prelates have governed the ecclesiastical territory. Salazar was succeeded by Santibañez, a Franciscan. He was replaced by the Dominican Miguel de Benavidez in 1603. Diego Vazquez de Mercado, who was appointed in 1610, was the first secular to head the archdiocese. Following him was a succession of archbishops coming from three religious congregations, Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, with some secular priests being appointed in between among whom was Basilio Sancho de Sta. Justa y Rufina, who headed the archdiocese from 1767-1787. He adopted the policy for the training of native secular priests to replace those from the religious orders in the parishes of the archdiocese. In 1903, following the establishment of American sovereignty in the Philippines, the first non-Spanish archbishop was appointed. He was Jeremiah Harty, a secular priest, who succeeded the Dominican Bernardino Nozaleda, the last of the Spanish archbishops. Another American, Michael O'Doherty became archbishop of Manila in 1916 following a stint as the first bishop of Zamboanga In 1949, Gabriel M. Reyes, a Filipino, was appointed the First Filipino Archbishop of Manila. Succeeding him, in 1953, was Rufino J. Santos who, in 1960, was elevated to the cardinalate, to become the first Filipino Cardinal Archbishop of Manila.
Jaime L. Sin, who was then archbishop of Jaro in Iloilo was appointed archbishop of Manila in 1974 following the death of Cardinal Santos in 1973.
The Archdiocese of Manila is made up of 7 cities, namely, Manila, Makati, Pasay, Mandaluyong, Pasig (excluding Santolan and Rosario District), Quezon City (excluding Northern part from Tandang Sora Avenue and Mactan), Kalookan and 5 municipalities, namely, San Juan, Taguig, Pateros, Malabon and Navotas. It covers a land area of 117.23 square kilometers. It is bounded by the Diocese of Malolos (Bulcan) in the north; Diocese of Antipolo (Rizal) in the East; Diocese of Imus (Cavite) and San Pablo (Laguna) in the south; and the Manila Bay in the west.
On Aug. 14,1595, Pope Clement VIII raised the diocese to the status of an archdiocese and created three new dioceses as suffragan to Manila: Nueva Caceres, Nueva Segovia, and Cebu. With the creation of these new dioceses, the territory of the archdiocese was reduced to the city of Manila and the ten civil provinces near it. Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Bataan, Zambales, and Mindoro.
On April 10, 1910, the province of Mindoro was established as an independent diocese by virtue of a Decretum Consistoriale executed by Pope Pius XI implementing the Bull "Quae Mari Sinico" of Pope Leo XIII. Eighteen years later, on May 19, 1928, Pope Pius XI established the Diocese of Lingayen, diving Manila and Nueva Segovia. In this division 26 parishes were separated from Manila.
On Nov. 25, 1961, the Archdiocese of Manila was again divided. The civil provinces of Bulacan in the north and Cavite in the south were separated from the archdiocese. Bulacan became the Diocese of Malolos and Cavite became the Diocese of Imus.
The eastern part of the province of Rizal was removed from the Archdiocese of Manila on Jan. 24, 1983. Fifteen towns and two barangays (villages) were separated from Manila to form the Diocese of Antipolo.