Manila (Agenzia Fides) - The celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel in the Philippines (1521-2021) has been extended for another year due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Agenzia Fides learns, according to the previously developed plan, the impressive official opening ceremony of the event - which will be the culmination of commemorations and pastoral and missionary activities scattered throughout the territory of the archipelago - was scheduled for April 2021, but will now take place in April 2022. The decision to move the date of the historic event is due to the health crisis that the nation is crossing, highlights Msgr. Pablo Virgilio David, interim president of the Philippine Bishops' Conference. “Due to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was necessary to change the schedule of our celebration of the 500 years of Christianity, which will be extended for a whole year, until 2022”, he added.
The Filipino Bishops agreed that the observance will start on April 17, 2020, Easter Sunday. 2022 will therefore be the Year of the Missio Ad Gentes. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines has earlier affirmed that the site for the historic Mass was held on Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte on March 31, 1521.
In recent days, the Diocese of Maasin began a 200-day countdown to the 500th anniversary of the 1521 Eucharistic celebration on the Island in 1521. The Catholic Church also commemorates the anniversary of the first Christian baptism on April 14, 2021, an event that will be spearheaded by the Archdiocese of Cebu, in the south of the Philippines.
The Bishops’ Conference decided to organize a nine-year preparatory cycle (from 2013 to 2021), assigning a particular theme to each year, with the aim of deepening and reinvigorating the missionary character of the Filipino church to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.
To this end, each diocese has organized programs and initiatives of missionary animation and training for priests, religious, catechists, teachers, laity with the aim of promoting and sensitizing the People of God, starting with children and young people.
The Bishops also moved the International Mission Congress (IMC) and the 2nd National Mission Congress to April 2022. In this period the Bishops’ Commission on the Clergy decided to organize a series of conferences on the history of the Church in the Philippines.
Spanish missionaries brought the Christian faith to the Philippines 500 years ago and today the country with the largest Catholic population in Asia (and the fourth in the world, with 80% Catholics out of 110 million inhabitants) has 86 dioceses. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 29/9/2020)