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 Badulla

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Diocese of Badulla
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In a land area of 8,348.4 square kilometers, the diocesan territory includes Badulla. Badulla diocese comes under two districts such as Monaragala and Badulla.

Badulla is located at the southeastern extremity of the hill country. For rail travelers it is also the end of the line from Colombo. The town is capital of the mountainous, Uva Province, but as it is situated at a slightly lower elevation (about 600m). Badulla is almost encircled by the river known as the Badullu-Oya. It is also ringed by mountains, one of which, Namunukula, predominates. As a result, the town experiences a climatic phenomenon called the Badulla Blanket, a lingering humid mist. Badulla stands 2222 ft. or about 677m above sea-level.

Badulla is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic district which is home for Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils. The main economic activities in Badulla are based on agriculture (60%) and tea plantations (20%).Tea is cultivated by the planters, and rice, fruit and vegetables by the natives in the district. Dunhida water falls in the diocese is gigantic and beautiful. The water fall is situated in Badulla, an ancient hill capital and about 63m (208ft).

Badulla diocese, 130 kilometers southeast of Colombo, serves a diaspora of some 21,985 Sinhalese and Tamil Catholics living among 1 million people comprising mainly Sinhalese peasant farmers and Tamil tea-garden workers in the hills of the underdeveloped southeastern Uva Province.

Badulla diocese is in the upper central region bordering Kandy in the north, Batticoloa and Trincomalee dioceses in the east, Colombo in the west, Galle in the south. The diocesan area is a predominantly Buddhist. The diocese was founded on December 18, 1972. The first bishop was Bishop Leo Nanayakkara, O.S.B. from 1972 to 1982. Badulla diocese's patron saint is St. Mary. Bishop Julian Winston Sebastian Fernando S.S.S., the present bishop was the first Asian to become a bishop from his congregation, which has three other bishops, for North America, Latin America and Africa.

Badulla diocese has 21,985 Sinhalese and Tamil baptized Catholics, of all 1,651,000 people comprising the territory. Badulla has 19 parishes with 42 resident priests.


In Badulla diocese, the population is 1,512,700 at the end of 2018 (The population of the whole country 21,670,000). Most residents are Sinhalese and Tamils.


The standard Sinhala and Tamil languages are in use.


The towns are managed by municipalities. The villages and small towns are administered by elected local bodies.


The diocesan area is well connected by roads and railways but still many poor roads lead to the states.


The average temperature is 23 degrees Celsius. The climate is tropical with about 1,800 millimeters of rain during monsoon.The monsoon is from May to August and October to January, this is the time of the year where heavy rains can be expected. In general, temperatures during late November to mid-February are lower than during the rest of the year.


Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area.


89% percent is the literacy rate in the diocesan territory.

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