Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines announced that the observance of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country will be extended for another year due to the pandemic.
The scheduled culmination of the celebration in April 2021 will now be the launch of a yearlong celebration that will end in April 2022.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, acting president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the decision to move the dates of the celebration was due to the current health crisis.
“Due to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was necessary to change the schedule of our celebration of the 500 years of Christianity,” said Bishop David.
“So it is now going to be a whole year celebration until 2022,” he added.
The bishops agreed that the observance will start on April 17, Easter Sunday, to mark the anniversary of the celebration of the First Easter Sunday Mass in the country.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines has earlier affirmed that the site for the historic Mass was held on Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte on March 31, 1521.
On September 12, the Diocese of Maasin began a 200-day countdown to the 500th anniversary of the 1521 Eucharistic celebration on the island.
The Philippine Church will also mark the anniversary of the first Christian baptism on April 14, 2021, an event that will be spearheaded by the Archdiocese of Cebu.
Originally set in April 2021, the bishops moved the International Mission Congress and the 2nd National Mission Congress to April 2022.
Bishop David said that the National Retreat for the Clergy set on August 4 to 6, 2021, has been cancelled.
Instead of a retreat, the bishops’ Commission on the Clergy decided to organize a series of conferences on the history of the Church in the Philippines.
Among the activities earlier lined up for the celebration is the publication of a book that will tell the story of the birth of Christianity in the Philippine archipelago.
The Church also plans to conduct a pilgrimage of the Jubilee Cross to mark the start of the countdown toward the quincentennial celebration of the Catholic faith in the Philippines.
The Catholic Church has already released the official theme and logo for the fifth centenary of Christianity in the Philippines — “Gifted to Give” or “500YOC”.
The logo’s central figure was conceptualized based on a painting of national artist Fernando Amorsolo, titled “The first baptism in the Philippines.”
It also displays a cross, a ship, a hovering color of blue, the sun, the “Ichthus,” and a holy rosary.