By CBCP News
Maasin, Philippines, 10 June 2020 -- Bishop Prescioso Cantillas SDB presided at the Eucharist at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Maasin on 4 June to mark the start of the 300-day countdown to the 500th anniversary celebration of the “First Mass” in the Philippines on Limasawa Island.
Some priests, local officials, and only a limited number of faithful attended the event in compliance with the Covid-19 precautionary measures to keep physical distance.
Limasawa is an island at the tip of Southern Leyte province where the first Easter Mass was held in 1521 when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his men landed.
Spanish friar Pedro de Valderrama was said to be the only priest of the Magellan expedition and was tasked to celebrate Mass on the shores of Limasawa.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has released the official theme and logo for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country which will be marked in 2021.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity, earlier said the 2021 observance “is a reminder of how Filipinos embraced the Catholic faith.”
“It is not a reminder of how we were colonized but of how Filipinos embraced Catholicism,” said the bishop, adding that “colonization and the arrival of Christianity in the country are two different things.”
Christianity was brought to the Philippines in 1521 when the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, landed there. He was leading a Spanish expedition in his bid to reach the East Indies, sailing west. The archipelago, named Philippines after King Philip II, became a colony of Spain until 1898.
Since 2012, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has been on a 9-year preparation for the 500 years of the arrival of the Gospel in the country, with each year assigned a specific theme and aspect of the Church and Christian life.
With about 81 percent of its estimated population of some 100 million identifying themselves as Catholics, the Philippines is home to Asia’s largest Catholic population.