In 2021 the Philippines will mark half a millennium of Christianity in the country. And this is indeed something to celebrate, for in 500 years the Christian faith in the country has not only survived but has been a strong influence in the culture and character of the nation, and is still going strong. We are the third country in the world with the most numerous Catholic population. The Catholic faith and devotion of the Filipinos is recognized all over the world. Through our Filipino migrants and missionaries, we also strengthen the Church in most of the 200 countries all over the world where Filipinos are found. There is really something to celebrate here.
In order to make this celebration more meaningful, since 2013 the whole Philippine Church has embarked on a 9-year preparation with a priority theme every year. The hope is that in these 9 years, a renewal may take place in the Catholic faith of the Filipinos to make the quincentenaries’ celebration more meaningful. We recognize that a lot has still to be improved in the way we live the faith. It still has to be purified, deepened and fortified.
The 2021 celebration will be marked with great thanksgiving to Almighty God for the great gift of the Christian faith. In God’s providence the Christian faith has come to our shores, took root in it, and bore much fruit among its people. Although the Cross of the faith had come with the Sword of the conquistadores in the time of colonialism, through time the Filipinos have learned to distinguish between the Christian faith and the Spanish colonialism. We had fought against the Spanish masters and drove them out but we have remained fervent in our fidelity to the Catholic Church. In fact, among the patriots who shed their blood in their struggle against Spain were the native Filipino clergy, famous among whom are Fr. Gomez, Fr. Burgos and Fr. Zamora—the GOMBURZA.
Year 2021 is also a celebration of thanksgiving to all the missionaries and the Christian lay leaders, among them our great, great grandparents, who passed on the faith from one generation to the other. We owe who we are and what we have to so many people down through the centuries, with their defects and with their virtues—Filipinos and foreigners, priests, religious and lay people.
But the quinquennial event is not just a looking back to the past. It is also a looking forward to the future. Yes, we have been chosen and truly gifted with the faith. This carries a great responsibility. We gratefully accept the gift, we develop it, and now it is our turn to pass it on to the others. By “others” I mean to the coming generations of Filipinos and also to the other peoples in Asia and in the world. Jesus has come for the salvation of all peoples. Since we received the Good News, we have to share this Good News to others, especially to our neighbors here in Asia. Hence, the celebration is also a call to mission. In fact, the encompassing theme of the celebration, which also serves as a challenge, is GRACIOUSLY GIFTED TO GIVE. Let us vigorously celebrate so that we will all be vigorously motivated to go out to share the gift of the Christian faith!