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Keeping Faith in Challenging Times

Following the end of World War II with the Japanese surrender in late 1945, the local Church launched a variety of initiatives that gave birth to important institutions and promoted the involvement of the laity.

During the five centuries of Christianity in the Philippines, the local Church has faced numerous serious situations.  One such time of grave threat was the period of World War II. The war inflicted heavy damage; 257 priests and religious lost their lives, and losses in ecclesiastical property and equipment were estimated at 250 million Philippine pesos (U.S. $ 125 million).  

Priests, brothers, sisters, and dedicated Catholic women and men exhibited great faith and heroism during the war; many suffered imprisonment.

Organization of Philippine Bishops. The origins of what is known today as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) can be traced back to February 1945 when Apostolic Delegate William Piani appointed John Hurley, S.J., to take charge of relief work and created the Catholic Welfare Organization (CWO) whose primary purpose was to assist in alleviating the immediate suffering and destruction brought on by the war.  

On July 17, 1945, all the bishops met in Manila for their first meeting after the Japanese Occupation. They requested that the CWO become the official organization of the Hierarchy of the Philippines.  In subsequent years, the CWO continued to be largely engaged in relief services and the rehabilitation of Church institutions. 

Post-war Initiatives. The twenty-year period between 1945 and 1965 in the life of the local Church was characterized by: rapid recovery from the ravages of war; great expansion of the school system at upper levels; involvement of Catholics (laity, sisters, clergy) in social action; and growing Filipinization of Church structures.  The First Plenary Council of the Philippines (1953) focused on the “preservation, enrichment, and propagation of Catholic life” and renewing the social order.  

The Church became involved in Catholic Action programs with farmers (FFF) and workers (FFW).  Guidance from the hierarchy continued; from 1945 to 1965 the CWO issued 39 joint pastoral letters and statements on a variety of subjects relevant to Church and civil society.  

The Philippine bishops sponsored a Marian Congress in Manila (1954) and inaugurated the Pontificio Collegio-Seminario Filippino in Rome (1961).  The period saw renewal programs introduced, such as the Christian Family Movement, the Cursillos de Cristianidad. 

1965: A Pivotal Year.  In mid-year, the nation observed a six-day renewal celebration of the quadricentennial of the systematic evangelization of the Philippines (1565-1965).  The bishops established the Mission Society of the Philippines.  Another significant event was the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council on December 8, 1965–with its clear focus on becoming a genuinely missionary Church. 

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