9-year plan to prepare for 500th anniversary of Gospel’s arrival to the Philippines
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has issued a pastoral letter on the new evangelization (year 2012) to help prepare Catholics for 2021, the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel in the Philippines.
“We look forward with gratitude and joy to March 16, 2021, the fifth centenary of the coming of Christianity to our beloved land,” the bishops said in their July 9 letter. “We remember with thanksgiving the first Mass celebrated in Limasawa Island on Easter Sunday March 31 that same blessed year. We remember the baptism of Rajah Humabon who was given his Christian name Carlos and his wife Hara Amihan who was baptized Juana in 1521. Our eyes gaze on the Santo Niño de Cebu, the oldest religious icon in the Philippines, gift of Ferdinand Magellan to the first Filipino Catholics that same year. Indeed the year 2021 will be a year of great jubilee for the Church in the Philippines.”
The bishops continued:
In the face of a secularism which in some parts of our present world has itself become a kind of a “dominant religion,” in the face of the reality of billions who live in our time and who have not truly encountered Jesus Christ nor heard of His Gospel, how challenged we are, how challenged we must be, to enter into the endeavor of the “New Evangelization!”
We for whom Jesus has been and is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life –how can we not want and long and share Him with brothers and sisters around us who are yet to know and love Him, who are yet to receive the fullness of Life for which we have all been created, and without which their hearts will be ever restless–until they find Jesus and His heart which awaits them?
To prepare the faithful for 2021, the bishops announced “a nine-year journey for the New Evangelization,” with a different theme for each year:
- Integral Faith Formation (2013)
- The Laity (2014)
- The Poor (2015)
- The Eucharist and the Family (2016)
- The Parish as a Communion of Communities (2017)
- The Clergy and Religious (2018)
- The Youth (2019)
- Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue (2020)
- Missio ad gentes [mission to the nations] (2021)
The Philippine bishops’ initiative recalls the Polish episcopate’s “great novena” (1957-66) in commemoration of the 1,000th anniversary of the evangelization of Poland—an initiative that strengthened Catholic identity during the Communist era.
Clergy and Religious.
In our culture, clergy and religious are the key to the New Evangelization. Yet they are not immune to the twin errors of a dichotomy of faith and inadequate discipleship of Christ. This is a year dedicated to the integral renewal of the values, mind-sets, behavior, and life-styles of the clergy and religious. The aim is to become servant-leaders in the manner of the Good Shepherd, live the spirit of the evangelical counsels and be authentic prophets of the Good News of Jesus and of the Kingdom. It will be a year, too, of revisiting ways of seminary and religious formation, of on-going formation, and of the collaboration of the laity in these crucial approaches to integral growth and development in view of mission and ministry.