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 My Tho

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Diocese of My Tho
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In a land area of 9,262 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers two entire civil provinces of Long An and Tien Giang and part of Dong Thap province.


In 2016, the diocese had a population of 4,241,000 including ethnic minority groups of Chinese and Khmer.


Vietnamese is mainly used in the diocesan territory. Ethnic Chinese and Khmer languages are also in use within ethnic communities.


Foreign missioners started to do evangelization work in the area in the 17th century. Local Catholics were accused of supporting French colonists and suffered severely persecution made by feudal soldiers in the 19th century. Alone at Ba Giong parish, Father Peter Nguyen Van Luu, pastor of the parish, and 27 lay Catholics were beheaded for their faith in 1861. My Tho diocese was established on Nov. 27, 1960 and Bishop Joseph Tran Van Thien was the first prelate of the diocese. At its establishment, it had 39 parishes, 86 churches and chapels and 50,249 Catholics served by 43 priests and 153 Religious. Coadjutor Bishop Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, the third bishop of the diocese, served the local Church from 1993 to 1998 when he was named archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City. Bishop Paul Bui Van Doc succeeded him. My Tho diocese is one of 10 suffragan dioceses under Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese. The Conception of the Virgin Cathedral built in 1910 is located in My Tho city.

The diocese's titular is Martyr Peter Nguyen Van Luu, April 7.


Main transport is buses, motorcycles, bicycles and boats connecting My Tho city to other provinces and Ho Chi Minh city.


The diocesan territory features in two seasons - rainy season lasting from May to November and dry season lasting from December to April. It is inundated with flood water in Septembers and Octobers. It has an average annual rainfall of 1,500 millimeters and average temperature of 27 degrees of centigrade.
Mekong River's branches bring ecosystems to the area.


Dong Thap and Long An provinces are famous for their large production of rice in the Mekong Delta. The areas also produce various kinds of fruit trees such as mango, pomelo, star apple, durian, blue dragon fruit, water melon and pipe apple.

It is home to raise shrimp, crap and oyster. My Tho city has some industrial zones.

Cho Noi Cai Be (Cai Be floating market) is one of two oldest floating markets on Mekong River, dating back to the 18th century. Local people travel by boats, selling and buying agricultural products at the market bordering three provinces of Ben Tre, Tien Giang and Vinh Long.


The diocese is located in the Mekong River Delta in southern Vietnam. It is headquartered in My Tho city. The diocese is bound in the North by Tay Ninh province, in the East by Ho Chi Minh City and Ba Ria - Vung Tau, in the South by Ben Tre province and in the West by Cambodia.


The diocese has Buddhists, Protestants and followers of indigenous Cao Dai and Hoa Hao.

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