POPE Francis on Sunday, March 14 led a Holy Mass commemorating the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.
Held at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Mass was attended by several members of the Filipino Church including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for Rome.
“Dear brothers and sisters, 500 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, in your songs and in your prayers,” Pope Francis said in his Homily.
He also noted that Filipino women in Rome are “smugglers” of faith, saying that they “sow the faith” wherever they go.
“It is part of your genes, a blessed ‘infectiousness’ that I urge you to preserve. Keep bringing the faith, the good news you received five hundred years ago, to others,” the Pope said.
“I want to thank you, then, for the joy you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities,” he added.
Pope Francis also urged Filipinos to continue spreading the word of God.
“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,” he said.
According to the Pope, one should “never be afraid to proclaim the Gospel.”
“With your joy, you will help people to say of the Church too: ‘she so loved the world!’ How beautiful and attractive is a Church that loves the world without judging, a Church that gives herself to the world. May it be so, dear brothers and sisters, in the Philippines and in every part of the earth,” he added.
Tagle, for his part, thanked Pope Francis for the Mass.
“I want to express our gratitude to you for leading us in this Eucharistic celebration and thanksgiving for the arrival of the faith in the Philippines 500 years ago. We bring you here the filial love of the Filipinos in the 7,641 islands of our country,” he said in his message to the Pope.
On March 16, 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew landed in Cebu, bringing Christianity to the Philippines. The first Mass in the country is believed to have been celebrated on March 31 on the island of Limasawa.
The island of Mactan, Cebu did not welcome Christianity, according to various historical accounts, leading to a battle between Rajah Humabon under the command of Magellan and Lapu-Lapu and his warriors, who rejected Spanish colonization. Magellan was killed in the battle.
A yearlong commemoration of Christianity’s 500th anniversary in the country will be launched on Easter Sunday, April 4.