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Pope Francis to mark 500 years of Catholic faith in the Philippines with Mass

CNA_528ea3a230a67_25582.jpg Pope Francis and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle before a mosaic of catechist St. Pedro Calungsod in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 21, 2013. Credit: Kerri Lenartowick/CNA.

Pope Francis will offer Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 14 to mark 500 years of Catholic faith in the Philippines.

The Mass will be attended by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the former archbishop of Manila, as well as Filipino Catholics living in Rome.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a limited number of people will be able to attend, but the Mass will be live-streamed for people to watch around the world.

“Join us in Rome to pray, praise and thank God for his gift of the Christian faith,” Fr. Ricky Gente, C.S., a priest of the Filipino Chaplaincy in Rome, said in comments to the news agency of the Philippines bishops’ conference.

The papal Mass is being held in honor of the year’s 500th anniversary of the presence of the Catholic faith in the Philippines, where the first Mass and the first Baptism took place in 1521.

For 300 years afterward, the Philippines remained a missionary territory with no native clergy. But 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, an estimated 86% of the 108 million population of the Philippines is Catholic.

In most dioceses in the country, the anniversary year will be inaugurated on Easter Sunday, April 4, after nine years of preparation. The dioceses have designated certain churches as special pilgrim churches for the year.

In Manila, apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo opened the anniversary year with a Mass at the cathedral on Feb. 6.

The Archdiocese of Manila, which serves around three million Catholics, has been without a bishop since December 2019, when Tagle left to serve as prefect of the Vatican’s evangelization office.

Last week, the apostolic nuncio in the Philippines said that a successor may be appointed soon.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, which aired on Feb. 24, Archbishop Charles Brown said that the next archbishop of Manila may be announced “before too long.”

“I don’t think the waiting will go on that much longer,” Brown added. 

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