[#AwaNgDiyosPH] Francis’ visit jumpstarts 500-year celebration of PHL Christianity

 

 

PARANAQUE CITY (The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com)—Today’s arrival of the Vicar of Christ in the Philippines marks a symbolic time for the Catholic Church to jumpstart a six-year journey of renewal leading to the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the country.

And just when Pope Francis’ face comes out of the chartered Sri Lankan Airlines flight landing at Villamor Airbase, it begins his role as a “catalyst for the reform of the Philippine Church,” a Salesian theologian said.

There are two schools of thought as to when Christianity “started” in the Philippines. It is said that when the first Christian Mass was celebrated in Limasawa Island (what is now the municipality of Limasawa) on March 31, 1521 —an Easter Mass. This municipality of 5,385 people is a sixth-income class municipality.

But Gustilo believes the seeds of Christianity in the country were first sown on April 14, 1521 in what is referred to as the first Baptism. That

A painting by national artist Fernando Amorsolo on the first baptism in the Philippines on April 14, 1521 (image taken from xiaochua,net).

A painting by national artist Fernando Amorsolo on the first baptism in the Philippines on April 14, 1521 (image taken from xiaochua,net).

baptism in Cebu City saw Rajah Humabon, the Philippines’ first indigenous king, his wives and some Cebuanos were baptized by Catholic priests who were part of an entourage of Ferdinand Magellan, the discoverer of the Philippines.

Humabon’s baptismal name became Carlos in honor of King Charles I of Spain. Humabon’s wife Hara Humamay was given the name Juana, in reference to Charles I’s mother Joanna of Castile. (Afterwards, Charles I made a blood compact with Magellan as a sign of friendship.)

It was during that first baptism when Magellan asked Antonio Pigafetta to give a gift to Humamay: an image of the Sto. Nino (Holy Child of Jesus), the Philippines’ oldest Christian image.

So Gustilo contends baptism jumpstarts one’s living of the faith, thus the 500th anniversary of Christianity must be on April 14, 2021.

“It is in baptism that you first begin your acceptance of the faith,” Gustilo explains to The Filipino Connection / Philstar.com. “Christianity is not just the Mass. Christianity is where you start living up to our baptismal vows.”

The baptismal vows that Gustilo, a former member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission (ITC), is referring to are teaching, healing and praying.

But Gustilo thinks that these days with Pope Francis should startle Catholics into thinking how they can go beyond just praying. “Sadly, we (Filipinos) were relegated to praying, Gustilo said. “Filipinos should not just be “consumer Christians.”

Theologian Fr. Francis Gustilo, SDB is the third Filipino member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission (ITC), a group of theologians chosen by the Vatican to reflect Church teachings over a five-year term. (Photo from the Salesians of St. John Bosco website: http://fin.sdb.ph/v8/Salesian/ArticlePage/3/aid/11)

Theologian Fr. Francis Gustilo, SDB is the third Filipino member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission (ITC), a group of theologians chosen by the Vatican to reflect Church teachings over a five-year term. (Photo from the Salesians of St. John Bosco website: http://fin.sdb.ph/v8/Salesian/ArticlePage/3/aid/11)

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had started its countdown to the 500th anniversary in 2012, the “Year of Faith.” This year’s the “Year of the Poor.” So for nine years (in what the CBCP calls as the “Era of the New Evangelization”,) there is an annual theme to commemorate–leading to the “Year of Missio Ad Gentes,” a jubilee year.

As to the events of history, a CBCP pastoral exhortation cited both the first Mass and the first Baptism as seeds of Philippine Christianity.

“Our endeavors for the 500th anniversary should be long-term and beyond that,” Gustilo said. “So what is the push? This papal visit is Filipinos’ push for that spiritually-worthy 2021 celebration.”

 

 

The Filipino Connection covers the visit of Pope Francis in partnership with Philstar.com.

 

This story can be published / broadcast / posted online provided The Filipino Connection / Philstar.com and the article’s author/s are properly acknowledged. Editorial mistakes are the publisher’s. Email: thefilipino.connection@gmail.com.

 

 

About JEREMAIAH OPINIANO