Pope Francis visited the Philippines in January 2015. He expressed his empathy with those who suffered the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda, addressing to them a message of mercy and compassion. The Pope highlighted the need for solidarity with the poor.
In his two pastoral visits to the Philippines, Pope John Paul II reminded the faithful of their special missionary vocation in the context of Asia. The Pope shared his desire: “that Filipinos will become the foremost missionaries of the Church in Asia.”
Philippine history was made richer with the unprecedented visit of Pope Paul VI on November 27-29, 1970 as part of his lengthy Asian journey. This event became the first of four papal visits: Paul VI (1970); John Paul II (1981 and 1995), and Francis (2015).
The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) promoted a significant ecclesiological paradigm shift, entailing changes in theologies, values, and pastoral practices. The local Church in the Philippines actively received these changes.
As the Philippines celebrate five centuries since the arrival of Christianity, it is beneficial to recall that this year is also the thirty-fifth anniversary of “People Power One” (1986-2021). An analysis of the “bloodless revolution” and the roles played by the Church is instructive.
The Philippines had to contend with Martial Law for years until a popular uprising spearheaded by the Catholics forced the dictator Ferdinand Marcos to flee the country. The Church was instrumental in the return to democracy.
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.
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 early foreign missionaries engaged in a variety of educational endeavors and social services as an effective means of spreading the Christian faith and serving the concrete needs of the Filipino people. Fortunately, many of these initial efforts remain vibrant institutions today.
Although the Christian faith arrived in the Philippines in 1521, an organized program of evangelizations only began in 1565 with the Augustinians accompanying Legazpi’s expedition. They were followed by Franciscans (1578), Jesuits (1581), Dominicans (1587), and Augustinian Recollects (1606).