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Catholic Church in the Philippines
Simbahang Katoliko sa Pilipinas (Filipino)
TypeNational polity
ClassificationCatholic
OrientationLatin
ScriptureBible
TheologyCatholic theology
PolityEpiscopal
GovernanceCatholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
PopeFrancis
PresidentPablo Virgilio S. David
Apostolic NuncioCharles John Brown
RegionPhilippines
LanguageLatin, Filipino, Native Philippine regional languages, English, Spanish
HeadquartersIntramuros, Manila
OriginMarch 17, 1521
Spanish East Indies, Spanish Empire
Branched fromCatholic Church in Spain
SeparationsApostolic Catholic Church (1992)
Members92.65 million (2021) [1]
Tertiary institutionsSee list
SeminariesSan Carlos Seminary, San Jacinto Seminary
Other name(s)
  • Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines
  • Iglesya Katolika or Iglesia Katolika
  • Simbahang Katolika
  • Simbahang Katolika Romana
Official websitewww.cbcponline.net
www.cbcpnews.net

As part of the worldwide Catholic Church, the Catholic Church in the Philippines (Filipino: Simbahang Katolika sa Pilipinas, Spanish: Iglesia católica en Filipinas), or the Philippine Catholic Church, is under the spiritual direction of the Pope in Rome. The Philippines is one of the two nations in Asia having a substantial portion of the population professing the Catholic faith, along with East Timor, and has the third largest Catholic population in the world after Brazil and Mexico.[2] The episcopal conference responsible in governing the faith is the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Christianity was first brought to the Philippine islands by Spanish pirates, missionaries and settlers, who arrived in waves beginning in the early 16th century in Cebu by way of colonization. Compared to the Spanish colonial period, when Christianity was recognized as the state religion, the faith today is practiced in the context of a secular state. In 2020, it was estimated that 85.7 million Filipinos, or roughly 78.8% of the population, profess the Catholic faith.[3]

History

Spanish Era

Manila Cathedral, circa pre-1900

Starting in the 16th century Spanish pirates and settlers arrived in the Philippines with two major goals: to participate in the spice trade which was previously dominated by Portugal, and to evangelize nearby civilizations, such as China. While many historians claim that the first Catholic Mass in the islands was held on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1521, on a small island near the present day Bukidnon Province, the exact location is disputed. A verified Mass was held at the island-port of Mazaua (present-day Limasawa) as recorded by the Venetian diarist Antonio Pigafetta, who travelled to the islands in 1521 on the Spanish expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan.[4]

Later, the Legazpi expedition of 1565 that was organized from Mexico City marked the beginning of the Hispanisation of the Philippines, beginning with Cebu.[5] This expedition was an effort to occupy the islands with as little conflict as possible, ordered by Phillip II.[6] Lieutenant Legazpi set up colonies in an effort to make peace with the natives[citation needed] and achieve swift conquest.

Christianity expanded from Cebu when the remaining Spanish missionaries were forced westwards due to conflict with the Portuguese, and laid the foundations of the Christian community in the Panay between around 1560 to 1571. A year later the second batch of missionaries reached Cebu. The island became the ecclesiastical "seat" and the center for evangelization. Missionary Fray Alfonso Jimenez OSA traveled into the Camarines region through the islands of Masbate, Leyte, Samar, and Burias and centered the church on Naga City. He was named the first apostle of the region. By 1571 Fray Herrera, who was assigned as chaplain of Legazpi, advanced further north from Panay and founded the local church community in Manila. Herrera travelled further in the Espiritu Santo and shipwrecked in Catanduanes, where he died attempting to convert the natives. In 1572, the Spaniards led by Juan de Salcedo marched north from Manila with the second batch of Augustinian missionaries and pioneered the evangelization in the Ilocos (starting with Vigan) and the Cagayan regions.[5]

Under the encomienda system, Filipinos had to pay tribute to the encomendero of the area, and in return the encomendero taught them the Christian faith and protected them from enemies. Although Spain had used this system in America, it did not work as effectively in the Philippines, and the missionaries were not as successful in converting the natives as they had hoped. In 1579, Bishop Salazar and clergymen were outraged because the encomenderos had abused their powers. Although the natives were resistant, they could not organize into a unified resistance towards the Spaniards, partly due to geography and ethno-linguistic differences.

Cultural impact

Filipinas ready for church, 1905
The Santo Niño de Cebú, the oldest Christian artifact in the Philippines. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan gave this statue to a Cebuano chieftain that converted to Christianity

The Spaniards were disapproving of the lifestyle they observed in the natives. They blamed the influence of the Devil and desired to "liberate the natives from their evil ways". Over time, geographical limitations had shifted the natives into barangays, small kinship units consisting of about 30 to 100 families.

Each barangay had a mutable caste system, with any sub-classes varying from one barangay to the next. Generally, patriarchal lords and kings were called datus and rajas, while the mahárlika were the knight-like freedmen and the timawa were freedmen. The alipin or servile class were dependent on the upper classes, an arrangement regarded as slavery by the Spaniards. Intermarriage between the timawa and the alipin was permitted, which created a more or less flexible system of privileges and labor services. The Spaniards attempted to suppress this class system based on their interpretation that the dependent, servile class was an oppressed group. They failed at completely abolishing the system, but instead eventually worked to use it to their own advantage.

Religion and marriage were also issues that the Spanish missionaries wanted to reform. Polygyny was not uncommon, but was mostly confined to wealthier chieftains. Divorce and remarriage were also common as long as the reasons were justified. Accepted reasons for divorce included illness, infertility, or finding better potential to take as a spouse. The missionaries also disagreed with the practices of paying dowries, the "bride price" where the groom paid his father-in-law in gold, and "bride-service", in which the groom performed manual labor for the bride's family, a custom which persisted until the late 20th century. Missionaries disapproved of these because they felt bride-price was an act of selling one's daughter, and labor services in the household of the father allowed premarital sex between the bride and groom, which contradicted Christian beliefs.

Pre-conquest, the natives had followed a variety of monotheistic and polytheistic faiths, often localized forms of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or Tantrism mixed with Animism. Bathala (Tagalog – Central Luzon) or Laon (Visayan) was the ultimate creator deity above subordinate gods and goddesses. Natives Filipinos also worshiped nature and venerated the spirits of their ancestors, whom they propitiated with sacrifices. There was ritualistic drinking and many rituals aimed to cure certain illnesses. Magic and superstition were also practiced. The Spaniards saw themselves as liberating the natives from sinful practices and showing them the correct path to God.

In 1599, negotiation began between a number of lords and their freemen and the Spaniards. The native rulers agreed to submit to the rule of the Castilian king and convert to Christianity, and allow missionaries to spread the faith. In return, the Spaniards agreed to protect the natives from their enemies, mostly Japanese, Chinese, and Muslim pirates.

Difficulties

Magellan's Cross outside of the Basilica del Santo Niño, Cebu City. The Cross is a symbol of the introduction of Christianity to the islands.

Several factors slowed the Spaniards' attempts to spread Christianity throughout the archipelago. The low number of missionaries on the island made it difficult to reach all the people and harder to convert them. This was also due to the fact that the route to the Philippines was a rigorous journey, and some clergy fell ill or waited years for an opportunity to travel there. For others, the climate difference once they arrived was unbearable. Other missionaries desired to go to Japan or China instead and some who remained were more interested in mercantilism. The Spaniards also came into conflict with the Chinese population in the Philippines. The Chinese had set up shops in the Parian (or bazaar) during the 1580s to trade silk and other goods for Mexican silver. The Spaniards anticipated revolts from the Chinese and were constantly suspicious of them. The Spanish government was highly dependent on the influx of silver from Mexico and Peru, since it supported the government in Manila, to continue the Christianization of the archipelago.

The most difficult challenges for the missionaries were the dispersion of the Filipinos and the wide variety of languages and dialects. The geographical isolation forced the Filipino population into numerous small villages, and every other province supported a different language. Furthermore, frequent privateering from Japanese Wokou pirates and slave-raiding by Muslims blocked Spanish attempts to Christianize the archipelago, and to offset the disruption of continuous warfare with them, the Spanish militarized the local populations, importing soldiers from Latin America, and constructed networks of fortresses across the islands.[7] As the Spanish and their local allies were in a state of constant war against pirates and slavers, the Philippines became a drain on the Vice-royalty of New Spain in Mexico City, which paid to maintaining control of Las Islas Filipinas in lieu of the Spanish crown.

Religious orders

See also: Friars in Spanish Philippines

The Philippines is home to many of the world's major religious congregations, these include the Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus, the Redemptorists, Augustinians, Recollects, Jesuits, Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans, Carmelites, Divine Word Missionaries, De La Salle Christian Brothers, Salesians of Don Bosco, the indigenous Religious of the Virgin Mary, and Clerics Regular of St. Paul are known as Barnabites.

During the Spanish colonial period, the five earliest regular orders assigned to Christianize the natives were the Augustinians, who came with Legazpi, the Discalced Franciscans (1578), the Jesuits (1581), the Dominican friars (1587) and the Augustinian Recollects (simply called the Recoletos, 1606).[8] In 1594, all had agreed to cover a specific area of the archipelago to deal with the vast dispersion of the natives. The Augustinians and Franciscans mainly covered the Tagalog country while the Jesuits had a small area. The Dominicans encompassed the Parian. The provinces of Pampanga and Ilocos were assigned to the Augustinians. The province of Camarines went to the Franciscans. The Augustinians and Jesuits were also assigned the Visayan Islands. The Christian conquest had not reached Mindanao due to a highly resistant Muslim community that existed pre-conquest.

The task of the Spanish missionaries, however, was far from complete. By the seventeenth century, the Spaniards had created about 20 large villages and almost completely transformed the native lifestyle. For their Christian efforts, the Spaniards justified their actions by claiming that the small villages were a sign of barbarism and only bigger, more compact communities allowed for a richer understanding of Christianity. The Filipinos faced much coercion; the Spaniards knew little of native rituals. The layout of these villages was in gridiron form that allowed for easier navigation and more order. They were also spread far enough to allow for one cabecera or capital parish, and small visita chapels located throughout the villages in which clergy only stayed temporarily for Mass, rituals, or nuptials.

The Philippines served as a base for sending missions to other Asian and Pacific countries such as China, Japan, Formosa, Indochina, and Siam.[8]

Indigenous resistance

The Filipinos to an extent resisted Christianisation because they felt an agricultural obligation and connection with their rice fields: large villages took away their resources and they feared the compact environment. This also took away from the encomienda system that depended on land, therefore, the encomenderos lost tributes. However, the missionaries continued their proselytising efforts, one strategy being targeting noble children. These scions of now-tributary monarchs and rulers were subjected to intense education in religious doctrine and the Spanish language, with the theory that they in turn could convert their elders, and eventually the nobleman's subjects.

Despite the progress of the Spaniards, it took many years for the natives to truly grasp key concepts of Christianity. In Catholicism, four main sacraments attracted the natives but only for ritualistic reasons, and they did not fully alter their lifestyle as the Spaniards had hoped. Baptism was believed to simply cure ailments, while Matrimony was a concept many natives could not understand and thus they violated the sanctity of monogamy. They were, however, allowed to keep the tradition of dowry, which was accepted into law; "bride-price" and "bride-service" were practiced by natives despite labels of heresy. Confession was required of everyone once a year, and the clergy used the confessionario, a bilingual text aid, to help natives understand the rite's meaning and what they had to confess. Locals were initially apprehensive, but gradually used the rite to excuse excesses throughout the year. Communion was given out selectively, for this was one of the most important sacraments that the missionaries did not want to risk having the natives violate. To help their cause, evangelism was done in the native language.

The Doctrina Christiana is a book of catechism, the alphabet, and basic prayers in Tagalog (both in the Latin alphabet and Baybayin) and Spanish published in the 16th century.

American period: 1898–1946

Catholic ceremony in the Philippines, circa pre-1930

When the Spanish clergy were driven out in 1898, there were so few indigenous clergy that the Catholic Church in the Philippines was in imminent danger of complete ruin. Under American administration, the situation was saved and the proper training of Filipino clergy was undertaken.[9] In 1906, Jorge Barlin was consecrated as the Bishop of Nueva Caceres, making him the first Filipino bishop of the Catholic Church.[10]

During the sovereignty of the United States, the American government implemented the separation of church and state,[11] which reduced the significant political power exerted by the Catholic Church,[11] which led to the establishment of other faiths (particularly Protestantism) within the country.[12] A provision of the 1935 Philippine Constitution mimicked the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and added the sentences: "The exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall be forever allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil political rights." But the Philippine experience has shown that this theoretical wall of separation has been crossed several times by secular authorities and culturally the Western church and state separation has been viewed as blasphemous among the Filipino people.

It was during the American Period when newer religious orders arrived in the Philippines. The Spanish friars gradually fled by the hundreds and left parishes without pastors. This prompted bishops to ask for non-Spanish Religious Congregations to set up foundations in the Philippines and help augment the lack of pastors. The American Jesuits and other religious orders from their American province filled the void left by their Spanish counterparts, creating a counterbalance to the growth of Protestant congregations by American Protestant missionaries.[citation needed]

1946–present

Catholic procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila, 2010

After the war, most of the religious orders resumed their ecclesiastical duties and helped in the rehabilitation of towns and cities ravaged by war. Classes in Catholic schools run by religious orders resumed, with American priests specializing in academic and scientific fields fulfilling faculty roles until the mid-1970s. American and foreign bishops were gradually succeeded by Filipino bishops by the 1950s.[citation needed]

When the Philippines was placed under Martial Law by dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., relations between Church and State changed dramatically, as some bishops expressly and openly opposed Martial Law.[13] The turning point came in 1986 when the CBCP President and then-Archbishop of Cebu Cardinal Ricardo Vidal appealed to the Filipinos and the bishops against the government and the fraudulent result of the snap election; with him was then-Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Jaimé Sin, who broadcast over church-owned Radio Veritas a call for people to support anti-regime rebels. The people's response became what is now known as the People Power Revolution, which ousted Marcos.

Church and State today maintain generally cordial relations despite differing opinions over specific issues. With the guarantee of religious freedom in the Philippines, the Catholic clergy subsequently remained in the political background as a source of moral influence, especially during elections. Political candidates continue to court the clergy and religious leaders for support.

Quiapo Church is the home of the image of the Black Nazarene, which is the focus of widespread popular devotion in the country.

In the 21st century, Catholic practice ranges from traditional orthodoxy, to Folk Catholicism and Charismatic Catholicism.[14] Of the roughly 84 million Filipino Catholics today, 37 percent are estimated[15] to hear Mass regularly, 29 percent consider themselves very religious, and less than 10 percent ever think of leaving the church.[15]

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, most liturgical services and spiritual activities from every diocese under the CBCP's jurisdiction transitioned to online broadcasting through the internet, television or radio, in response to the prohibition of mass gatherings during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.[16][17] On March 13, 2020, the CBCP issued a circular allowing bishops to dispense the faithful from Sunday obligation. By June, physical Holy Masses gradually resumed, but with churches operating at limited capacities.[18] Physical activities were suspended again multiple times in response to multiple surges of cases between August 2020 and January 2022.[19][20] On October 14, 2022, as restrictions eased, the CBCP released a circular encouraging the faithful to physically return to attending Sunday Masses.[21] Since then, several dioceses and archdioceses lifted its dispensations from physical attendance of Masses; the dioceses of Cubao and Malolos lifted its own dispensations on April 2, 2023 (Palm Sunday)[22] and June 11, 2023 (Feast of Corpus Christi), respectively.[23]

In 2021, the Catholic Church in the Philippines celebrated the quincentennial of the arrival of Christianity in the country, despite the setbacks brought by the pandemic.[24] The celebrations were marked by commemorations of the first Mass in the country,[25] the re-enactment of the first Baptism in Cebu City, among others.[26]

In 2024, the Philippine Church marked the declaration of Antipolo Cathedral as the country's first international shrine.[27]

Internal movements

Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Soldiers of Christ Healing Ministry in Pulilan, Bulacan

A number of Catholic Charismatic Renewal movements emerged vis-a-vis the Born-again movement during the 70s. The charismatic movement offered In-the-Spirit seminars in the early days, which have now evolved and have different names; they focus on the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some of the charismatic movements were the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon, Assumption Prayer Group, Couples for Christ, the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, El Shaddai, Elim Communities, Kerygma, the Light of Jesus Family,[28] Shalom, and Soldiers of Christ.[29]

Neocatechumenal Way

The Catholic Church's Neocatechumenal Way in the Philippines has been established for more than 40 years. Membership in the Philippines now exceeds 35,000 persons in more than 1,000 communities, with concentrations in Manila and Iloilo province. A neocatechumenal diocesan seminary, Redemptoris Mater, is located in Parañaque, while many families in mission are all over the islands. The Way has been mostly concentrated on evangelization initiatives under the authority of the local bishops.

Organization

Main article: List of Catholic dioceses in the Philippines

Catholic archdioceses in the Philippines

The Catholic Church in the Philippines is organized into 72 dioceses in 16 Ecclesiastical Provinces, as well as 7 Apostolic Vicariates and a Military Ordinariate.

Society

Education

Further information: List of Catholic universities and colleges in the Philippines

See also: Education in the Philippines during Spanish rule

University of Santo Tomas

The Catholic Church is involved in education at all levels. It has founded and continues to sponsor hundreds of secondary and primary schools as well as a number of colleges and internationally known universities. The earliest universities in the Philippines were the University of San Carlos and the University of Santo Tomas, founded during the Spanish colonial period.[30] The Jesuit Ateneo de Manila University, La Salle Brothers De La Salle University, and the Dominican University of Santo Tomas are listed in the "World's Best Colleges and Universities" in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings.[31]

Other Catholic educational institutions in the country include the Notre Dame institution system in Mindanao, the Rogationist College in Silang, Cavite, and the Divine Word and Saint Louis school systems in Luzon.[30]

More than 1,500 Catholic schools throughout the Philippines are members of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the national association of Catholic schools in the country founded in 1941.[32]

Politics

President Duterte meets with Cardinal Tagle at the Malacañan Palace, July 19, 2016

The Catholic Church wields great influence on Philippine society and politics. Then-Archbishop of Cebu Cardinal Ricardo Vidal and then-Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Jaime Sin were influential during the People Power Revolution of 1986 against dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. The Archbishop of Cebu, who was president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines at that time, led the rest of the Philippine bishops and made a joint declaration against Marcos and the results of the snap election, while the Archbishop of Manila appealed to the public via radio to march along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue in support of rebel forces. Some seven million people responded in what became known as the 1986 People Power Revolution, which lasted from February 22–25. The non-violent revolution drove Marcos out of power and into exile in Hawaii.[33] In 2017, a USA Today reporter remarked that the church reached its political peak in 1986 when it was instrumental in replacing the Marcos dictatorship.[34]

In 1989, President Corazon Aquino asked Vidal to convince General Jose Comendador, who was sympathetic to the rebel forces fighting her government, to peacefully surrender. Vidal's efforts averted what could have been a bloody coup.[35]

In October 2000, Sin expressed his dismay over the allegations of corruption against President Joseph Estrada. His call sparked the second EDSA Revolution, dubbed as "EDSA Dos". Vidal personally asked Estrada to step down, to which he agreed at around 12:20 p.m. of January 20, 2001, after five continuous days of protest at the EDSA Shrine, and various parts of the Philippines and the world. Estrada's Vice-President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, succeeded him and was sworn in on the terrace of the shrine in front of Sin.

On the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared three days of national mourning and was one of many dignitaries at his funeral in Vatican City.[36] Political turmoil in the Philippines widened the rift between the State and the Church. Arroyo's press secretary Ignacio Bunye called the bishops and priests who attended an anti-Arroyo protest as hypocrites and "people who hide their true plans".

The Catholic Church in the Philippines strongly opposed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, commonly known as the RH Bill.[37] The country's populace – 80% of which self-identify as Catholic – was deeply divided in its opinions over the issue.[38] Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) vehemently denounced and repeatedly attempted to block[39] President Benigno Aquino III's plan to push for the passage of the reproductive health bill.[40][41] The bill, which was popular among the public, was signed into law by Aquino, and was seen as a point of waning moral and political influence of the Catholic Church in the country.[42][39][34]

During the Duterte administration, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has been vocally critical of extrajudicial killings taking place during the war on drugs, in what the church sees as the administration's approval of the bloodshed.[43] Efforts by the church to rally public support against the administration's war on drugs were less effective due to Duterte's popularity and high trust rating.[34] Some churches reportedly offered sanctuary to those who fear death due to the drug war violence.[44]

During the 2022 presidential elections campaign, the church supported and endorsed the candidacy of vice president Leni Robredo in an effort to prevent Bongbong Marcos, son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, from winning the election. Robredo, who won in 18 of the 86 dioceses in the country,[45] lost the presidential race in a landslide.[46]

Missionary activities

The Philippines has been active in sending Catholic missionaries around the world and has been a training center for foreign priests and nuns.[47]

To spread the Christian religion and the teachings of Jesus Christ, missionaries enter local communities. Depending on where a missionary or group of missionaries are travelling, their work will vary (international or local communities).

Marian devotion

The Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Concepcion, is officially the principal patroness of the Philippines
Our Lady of Peñafrancia has almost five to nine million devotees attending its annual feast in Naga City.

The Philippines has shown a strong devotion to Mary, evidenced by her patronage of various towns and locales nationwide.[48] Particularly, there are pilgrimage sites dedicated to a specific apparition or title of Mary. With Spanish regalia, indigenous miracle stories, and Asian facial features, Filipino Catholics have created hybridized, localized images, the popular devotions to which have been recognized by various Popes.

Filipino Marian images with an established devotion have generally received a Canonical Coronation, with the icon's principal shrine being customarily elevated to the status of minor basilica. Below are some pilgrimage sites and the year they received a canonical blessing:

Religious observances

Catholic holy days, such as Christmas and Good Friday, are observed as national holidays,[50] with local saints' days being observed as holidays in different towns and cities. The Hispanic-influenced custom of holding fiestas in honor of patron saints have become an integral part of Filipino culture, as it allows for communal celebration while serving as a celebration of the town's existence.[51][52] A nationwide fiesta occurs on the third Sunday of January, on the country-specific Feast of the Santo Niño de Cebú. Major festivals include the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan, and the Dinagyang in Iloilo City.[53][54][55]

With regard to most holy days of obligation, the Philippines observes three days of obligation. These are:[56]

Filipino diaspora

Overseas Filipinos have spread Filipino culture worldwide, bringing Filipino Catholicism with them.[57] Filipinos have established two shrines in the Chicago Metropolitan Area: one at St. Wenceslaus Church dedicated to Santo Niño de Cebú and another at St. Hedwig's with its statue to Our Lady of Manaoag. The Filipino community in the Archdiocese of New York has the San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel (New York City) for its apostolate.

Papal visits

Pope Francis in Tacloban in January 2015

See also

References

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Bibliography

Further reading