By Robin Gomes
The Holy See and the Philippines on Thursday marked the 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two states. Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, the anniversary was marked by a virtual event and a message by the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Outgoing Philippine ambassador to the Holy See, Grace Relucio-Princesa, reaffirmed her nation’s commitment to further strengthen the bilateral relations. She assured the government’s continued partnership with the Church because “there’s really room for engagement”. “Let the Philippine embassy in the Vatican start this: diplomacy for humanity, diplomacy for the common good, and one of this is migration,” said the 65-year-old diplomat who is retiring.
70 years of relations
On April 8, 1951, during the term of President Elpidio Quirino, representatives of both parties signed their first treaty establishing ties. The agreement raised the Holy See’s Apostolic Delegation to the Philippines to the status of Apostolic Nunciature. Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi became the first Apostolic Nuncio, having been appointed the following day, April 9, 1951.
The first Philippine ambassador was Manuel Moran, who presented his credentials to Pope Pius XII on June 4, 1951. On that occasion, Moran spoke of his country's desire to maintain and strengthen its long-standing bonds of friendship with the Holy See, and to cooperate with it in the great task of promoting peace and human dignity and freedom.
Through the Nunciatures, the Holy See is able to facilitate dialogue with the civil authorities, foster contacts with the local Churches and maintain a presence in international life.
Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Teodoro Locsin Jr, released a message extending his “warmest and most sincere greetings” for “70 years of close friendship between the Philippines and the Holy See”. “May our work together in the coming years,” he said, “contribute to the world’s healing.” “May we also witness and guide new generations to bear stronger faith, hope and love,” he said recalling 500 years of Christianity in the country. “Through all these years, Filipinos have adhered to the faith that was first brought to our shores 500 years ago,” Locsin wrote. “From the very beginning, we Filipinos have shown our innate friendliness and compassion to other people in need of help, during those first encounters with European visitors in our country, after their long trans-Atlantic and Pacific voyage,” Locsin added.
4 papal visits by 3 popes
During the past 70 years, there have been four papal visits to the Philippines: the 1970 visit by Pope Paul VI, the visits of 1981 and 1995 by Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis’ visit in 2015. The 70 anniversary takes place in the context of the jubilee celebrations of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, which kicked off on East Sunday, April 4.
The virtual event of April 8 was highlighted with a webinar titled “70 years of Philippine-Holy See bilateral relations: Reflections on the Filipino religious diaspora, and its impact on the overseas Filipino diaspora and the contribution of the Church towards their social-pastoral care”. Fr. Gregory Gaston, the rector of Rome-based Pontificio Collegio Filippino, was the moderator.
Among the participants were Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines; Cardinal Jose Advincula, Archbishop of Manila; and Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Some officials from the Office of European Affairs and the Philippine Foreign Affairs were also in attendance.
A Catholic nation
According to the 2018 census, the Philippines has 108.7 million people, over 80 million of whom are Catholic, making it the nation with the largest Catholic population in Asia. Worldwide, the Philippines has the third largest Catholic population after Brazil and Mexico. The other Catholic-majority nation of Asia is Timor-Leste (East Timor), whose population of some 1.2 million is over 95 percent Catholic.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has released a video briefly highlighting some of the milestones of 7 decades of friendly relations with the Holy See. (Source: CBCP News)