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 Phat Diem

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Diocese of Phat Diem
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Phat Diem diocese was founded on April 2, 1901, but the seeds of the Gospel were introduced to the region as early as 1627 by Paris Foreign Mission (MEP) missioners.

The Phat Diem Cathedral complex with Oriental architecture, was built 1875-1898 under the supervision of the late Father Tran Luc. The main church itself was completed in 1891 long before it became the diocesan cathedral. Father Luc, also the designer of the wood and stone compound, served as the church's pastor until he died in 1899.

The church is surrounded by four chapels, and in front of it lies Father Luc's tomb. Between the tomb and a lake with a big statue of Christ the King in the middle of it stands a bell tower also in Oriental style.

Behind the church and the chapels are various grottos. At the far left corner of the complex is another stone chapel.

In 1988, Vietnam's Ministry of Culture and Information declared the cathedral complex a national cultural and historical site.

In recent years, the cathedral complex has become a pilgrimage site for Catholics throughout the country and also a tourist site for foreigners.

Some other churches in the diocese were also built in Oriental style.

In addition to beautiful caves, there are relics of the old capital of Vietnamese Kings (968-1010) and their temples in the diocese.

The late Bishop Jean Baptiste Nguyen Ba Tong, who was the first Vietnamese-ordained coadjutor bishop of the diocese on June 11, 1933, became the first native bishop of the diocese on Oct. 20, 1935.

The diocese has an area of 1,786.77 square kilometers and covers the whole of Ninh Binh province and Lac Thuy district of Hoa Binh province.

In addition to Kinh (majority Vietnamese), there is only the Muong ethnic group residing in the diocesan territory.

The climate is hot and cold with a yearly average temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. Its annual precipitation is 2,000 millimeters.

Diocesan website: www.phatdiem.org

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