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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 Thanh Hoa

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Diocese of Thanh Hoa
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Population

According to the national census conducted in April 2017 by the government, Thanh Hoa province had a total population of 4,291,000, becoming the third largest province in the country in terms of population after Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi. Population density was 305 people per square kilometer and gender rate was 98 boys per 100 girls. The province is home to many ethnic groups of Dao, Hmong, Kho Mu, Kinh, Muong, Thai, and Tho.

History

March 19, 1626, Jesuit Father Alexandre de Rhodes arrived at Cua Bang (now Ba Lang parish) in Thanh Hoa province and started to introduce Catholicism to people in this area and later in other places in northern Vietnam.

Thanh Hoa was carved out from the neighboring Phat Diem diocese and erected on May 7, 1932. When the Vietnamese Church Hierarchy was established in 1960, Thanh Hoa was elevated to a diocese.

After French troops were defeated by communists at Dien Bien Phu battlefield in 1954, French Bishop Louis de Cooman Hanh, the first bishop of the diocese, was forced to leave for France, and 18,500 local Catholics fled to the south. Only 27 priests, 85 seminarians, 50 nuns and 47,000 Catholics stayed in the diocese.

Father Peter Pham Tan was named bishop of the diocese on March 17, 1959 but his ordination was not until on June 22, 1975. He died in 1990.

After Vietnam adopted the open-door policy in 1980s, religious activities gradually resumed. Bishop Bartholomew Nguyen Son Lam, who led the diocese 1994-2003, rebuilt churches, bishop's house and convents and improved spiritual life of local Catholics.

In recent years the diocese built a minor seminary to train future priests, sent many priests and nuns to study abroad. The local Church plans to build facilities for orphans and people with physical disabilities in the future.

The diocese is a suffragan of Ha Noi archdiocese and its titular is Saint Joseph, March 19.

Climate

The province's annual average temperature falls around 23.3 degree Celsius. The highest temperature in summer is up to 40 degrees Celsius and drops to 5 degrees Celsius in winter. Its rainfall is 1,730-1,980 mm mainly concentrating in June to November.

Topography

In a land area of 11,158 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the civil province of Thanh Hoa, that borders Ninh Binh on the northeast, Son La on the northwest, Laos on the west, Nghe An on the south and East sea on the east.

Education

In 2009, the province recorded 608,875 students from elementary to high schools .

Religion

Buddhism, Catholicism and Protestantism are main religions in the province.

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