List of ‘Jubilee Churches’ and Decree of Papal Blessing with Attached Plenary Indulgence

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The Philippines: Arsenal of Faith, Deposit of Christianity in the East

History of the Church in the Philippines

By Felipe Salvosa II

The story of the Philippines is the story of the Church’s “most successful missionary effort in Asia” (Bokenkotter, 2005). Like the proverbial grain of the mustard seed sown in fertile earth, the growth and development of the Church and the Philippines were the fruits of the labors of missionary friars, sustained by an indigenous clergy, and made vibrant by a faithful people. Jesuit historian Fr. John Schumacher writes: “Whether one is a believing Catholic or not, the development of the Filipino nation cannot be understood without a knowledge of the major, often decisive role that the Church has played, well or ill, in that process, and continues to play.”

I. Spain conquers the Philippines with the Cross of Christ

Catholicism came to the Philippines with the European discovery of the archipelago. The explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on the islands in 1521 and planted the cross on the island of Cebu, cradle of Christianity in the Philippines.

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II. A Church established by missionary zeal

“The conquest of the Philippines,” the Dominican historian Fr. Lucio Gutierrez explains, “was due fundamentally not to the sword of the conquistador but to the cross of the missionary … it was the missionaries’ zeal and charity that brought the Filipinos into the fold of the Church.”

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III. Spiritual life flourishes among Filipinos

By the close of the 17th century the faith had blossomed in full as Filipinos yearned for a deeper religious life. Historian Schumacher considers this the “golden age” in the life of the Philippine Church, as it saw the emergence of the beaterios (mystical communities of the lay folk as described by writer Nick Joaquin), and the Filipino clergy.

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IV. A Filipino clergy emerges

The friars were not without defects. By the 18th century, the parishes had become too dependent on the missionary orders, stunting the development of native priests. The bishops at first attempted to break the hold of the friars by asserting their visitation rights over the parishes. The friars, of course, resisted another layer of authority and wanted to be answerable solely to their religious superiors.

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V. A missionary Church for Asia and the world

The friars were not without defects. By the 18th century, the parishes had become too dependent on the missionary orders, stunting the development of native priests. The bishops at first attempted to break the hold of the friars by asserting their visitation rights over the parishes. The friars, of course, resisted another layer of authority and wanted to be answerable solely to their religious superiors.

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