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 San Jose Nueva Ecija

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Diocese of San Jose Nueva Ecija
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The Diocese of San Jose lies in the northern part of Nueva Ecija. Evangelized by the Agustinian missionaries, Nueva Ecija was created as a province in 1705 by Spanish Governor Fausto Cruzal. The name of the province is attributed to Governor Cruzal, who chose this name after his hometown Ecija in Seville, Spain.

The Franciscan Fathers took over from the Agustinians and continued the work of evangelization. Later on, the diocesan clergy, helped by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, carried on the apostolate.


In 2017, population is around 907,510.


The Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, was created on Feb. 16, 1984 by Pope John Paul II and canonically erected on July 14, 1984. Its territory was taken from the Diocese of Cabanatuan which at the same time of the division comprised the entire province of Nueva Ecija.

Sixteen parishes, out of 41 parishes of the Diocese of Cabanatuan were adjudicated to the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija. 80 percent of the people are Roman Catholics and the rest of 20 percent are members of different sects and denominations.

Bishop Florentino F. Cinense, DD, was appointed the diocese's first residential bishop on July 14, 1984. When appointed co-adjutor bishop of Tarlac, he remained as Apostolic Administrator of San Jose, until the appointment of his successor Bishop Leo M. Drona, SDB, DD, on July 25, 1987. Bishop Leo M. Drona had been a Salesian of Don Bosco for twenty nine-years prior to his Episcopal appointment. He is the first Filipino Salesian priest as well as the first Filipino Salesian Bishop. In June 2004, Bishop Drona was transferred to the Diocese of San Pablo, Laguna as its third bishop. He was succeeded by Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara who was installed as the third bishop of the Diocese of San Jose de Nueva Ecija on May 14, 2005.

On July 14, 2009, the diocese will celebrate its 25th Silver Jubilee. A Year-long celebration is being prepared. For more information please check the website.


The Diocese of San Jose is located approximately 160 kilometers north of Manila. It is bounded by the Sierra Madre mountains in the east and the Caraballo Mountain ranges in the north. 


The people of San Jose are mostly tenant-farmers. Agricultural in nature, the diocese's major source of income come from producing rice, corn, sugar cane, coconut, mongo, onions, fruits and vegetables.

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