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Crisis, Struggle, and Recovery

The transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the US in 1898 left the Filipino Church in chaos with a short supply of clergy and a drastic reduction of friars. The situation was reversed with the arrival of missionaries from Europe, Australia, and America.

The change of Philippine sovereignty from Spain to the United States in 1898 ended the long-standing Patronato system.  The US policy of “Church-State Separation” was extended to the Philippines but interpreted in a manner less favorable to the Church.  Also, a system of non-sectarian public education was established that failed to take into account that the vast majority of Filipinos were Catholics.

Schism.  One consequence of the revolutionary upheaval was the formation by Gregorio Aglipay, a Filipino secular priest, of a schismatic church along nationalist lines, the Philippine Independent Church or Iglesia Filipina Independiente (1902).  Initially, it drew a considerable following; however, it soon broke up into factions, some of which rapidly deserted Catholicism.   

Protestant Missions.  Protestant denominations sent mission personnel to the Philippines almost as soon as the transfer of sovereignty was affected.  In 1901 Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and United Brethren groups, along with societies such as the Christian Missionary Alliance, the YMCA, and the American Bible Society, formed an Evangelical Union to coordinate their activities. A denomination of local origin with evangelical orientation, the Iglesia ni Cristo, was founded in 1914.  

From 1898 to 1900 there were almost no resident bishops; diocesan priests remained in very short supply and some had defected to the Aglipayans; seminaries were closed. From 1898 to 1903 the total number of friars decreased over 75% from 1,013 to 246.  

Church Response.  The true beginnings of the reorganization of the Church began with the persistent efforts of Apostolic Delegate Giovanni Guidi through his negotiations with the American government and the Filipino clergy. The severe shortage of priests and religious was met in part by new, non-Spanish missionary congregations of women and men from Europe, Australia, and America.  

For example, male missionary societies that responded to the pressing needs in the 1905-1941 period are the Irish Redemptorists (1905), Mill Hill Missionaries (1906), Scheut-CICM (1907), Sacred Heart Missionaries and Divine Word Society (1908), LaSalle Brothers (1911), Oblates of Saint Joseph (1915), Maryknoll Missioners (1926), Columban Missioners (1929), Society of Saint Paul (1935), Quebec-PME Society (1937), and Oblates-OMI (1939).  

During the early decades of the 1900s, many dedicated female religious came as missionaries to the Philippines.  Thus, by the mid-1920s, the situation was taking a turn for the better; the faith was surviving. 

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