POPE FRANCIS praised Filipinos for being bearers of joy to the world, in Sunday Mass at the Vatican commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines.

“I want to thank you… for the joy you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities,” the Pope said at St. Peter’s Basilica.

He declared that Filipinos, through their “discreet and hardworking presence” worldwide, have become faith personified.

“Five hundred 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,” the Pope said.

He also commended Filipinos for being “smugglers of faith.”

“I have often said that here in Rome Filipino women are ‘smugglers’ of faith! Because wherever they go to work, they sow the faith. It is part of your genes, a blessed ‘infectiousness’ that I urge you to preserve. Keep on bringing the faith, the good news you received 500 years ago, to others,” he said.

As Filipinos mark Christianity’s quincentennial in the country, the Pope said the celebrations should be centered around missionary work and evangelization.

“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. The Gospel message of God’s closeness cries out to be expressed in love for our brothers and sisters,” he said.

“Never be afraid to proclaim the Gospel, to serve and to love. 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: Christianity is God’s gift to PH

Former Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines was a gift from God.

“The coming of the Christian faith to our land is God’s gift. [N]ow, the Philippines has the third largest number of Catholics in the world. This is truly God’s gift,” Tagle told the Pope in a message following the Mass at St. Peter’s.

Tagle said the Filipinos’ faith has helped them overcome challenges and remain hopeful despite calamities.

“By God’s grace, Filipino Christians have continued to receive the faith—one of the sources of hope—in facing poverty, economic inequality, political upheavals, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and even the current pandemic.”

Tagle also said that the Christian faith has shaped the Filipino culture and nation.

The Philippines has more than 90 million Christians.

The Mass was concelebrated by Tagle and Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the Pope’s vicar in the Rome diocese.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only 100 people were allowed inside the basilica. The Mass was also streamed live for people to watch around the world.

The Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff released a copy of the Papal Mass booklet on March 14. It contained texts and songs in Italian, English, Filipino, Cebuano and Latin.

On March 1, Pope Francis declared a jubilee year with plenary indulgence for the quincentennial celebration of Christianity in the country that will begin on April 4, Easter Sunday. Ma. Alena O. Castillo and Sophia T. Sadang


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