Pope thanks Filipinos for spreading Christianity

Pope Francis hailed Filipinos, especially women migrant workers for being “smugglers” of faith in spreading Christianity wherever they go, as he offered mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Sunday to mark 500 years of Catholic faith in the Philippines.

500 YEARS. Pope Francis (right) thanks Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle after he addressed a message during a mass to mark 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, on March 14, 2021 at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican. AFP

“Five hundred years have passed since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines. You received the joy of the Gospel: the good news that God so loved us that he gave his Son for us. And this joy is evident in your people. We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers,” he said in his homily.

“In the joy with which you bring your faith to other lands. I have often said that here in Rome Filipino women are ‘smugglers’ of faith. Because wherever they go to work, they sow the faith. It is part of your genes, a blessed ‘infectiousness’ that I urge you to preserve,” the Pope added.

The first Catholic Mass and first baptism took place in the country in 1521.

There were no native clergy for the first 300 years of Catholicism in the Philippines. In 1905, the first Filipino-born bishop, Jorge Imperial Barlin, was appointed. Barlin is buried in Rome, where he died during an ad limina visit in 1909.

Today, the Philippines has the third largest number of Catholics in the world, accounting for an estimated 86 percent of the country’s 108 million population.

“On this very important anniversary for God’s holy people in the Philippines, I also want to urge you to persevere in the work of evangelization – not proselytism, which is something else. The Christian proclamation that you have received needs constantly to be brought to others. The Gospel message of God’s closeness cries out to be expressed in love for our brothers and sisters,” the Pope said,

“Never be afraid to proclaim the Gospel, to serve and to love,” Francis said.

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