Pope Francis will lead the Filipino community in Italy in celebrating the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.
Father Ricky Gente of the Filipino Chaplaincy in Rome said the celebration will be highlighted with a Mass to be officiated by Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica at five o’clock in the afternoon (Philippine time) on March 14.
Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar of Rome, will also be present during the occasion.
Due to pandemic restrictions, a limited number of people will be allowed to attend the Mass physically inside the basilica. The celebration will be streamed live from the Vatican.
“Join us in Rome to pray, praise and thank God for his gift of the Christian faith,” said Father Gente. After the Mass, the pope will lead the traditional recitation of the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square.
In the Philippines, most dioceses will launch the year-long commemoration on April 4, Easter Sunday.
The bishops have chosen “Missio ad Gentes” as the theme of the pastoral year 2021 to mark the anniversary while “Gifted to Give” from Matthew’s Gospel is the theme for the celebration.
There are about 168,000 Filipinos in Italy, which hosts the largest population of overseas Filipino workers in Western Europe.
In 2019, Pope Francis led the traditional Filipino “Simbang Gabi” Mass in Rome and acknowledged the role of Filipino migrant workers in the growth of Catholic Church throughout the world.
In his message after the Mass, the pope called on Filipinos, especially those who are living abroad, to “continue to be smugglers of the faith.”